It took Xavi just a year and a half to return the LaLiga championship trophy to the Camp Nou for the first time since 2019. The achievement is quite remarkable in light of the club’s cosmic debts and €1.35bn austerity. A couple of weeks ago, a video in which Xavi kicked the ball into a basketball basket at the club’s training ground with a right hand from 15 meters went viral on social media. Everything is fine, but the dilapidated holey shield, from which the ball bounced into the basket, clearly illustrates the sad reality behind the brilliance visible to ordinary fans.
The depressive atmosphere in the club put a lot of pressure on the players and the coaching staff. It is quite logical that in the championship season there was a moment when the team could either fall apart or show character and show the ability not only to survive, but also to conquer high goals. That moment came in October 2022. At first, Barça did not beat Inter (3-3) in the Champions League and practically said goodbye to the tournament, to which they made a big bet this season. And four days later, he flew to Real Madrid (1:3) in the first Clásico of the season and was three points behind their rivals in La Liga.
There are no longer galacticos at Real Madrid. I don’t want to fail like Barcelona
To avoid the atmosphere of “Boss, all is lost!”, the coach on Monday, October 17, set up a meeting not only for the team, but also for the coaching staff. In his fiery speech, Xavi made it clear to everyone that nothing is lost yet and that we must fight.
In the autumn of 2022, a fateful meeting took place in Barcelona
“Everyone was crushed, the relegation from the Champions League did a lot of damage to the club, it seemed that the clouds that hung over the Camp Nou could not be dispersed. But Xavi found the right words and charged against the team. He highlighted our strengths and made us visualize success, ”midfielder Frenkie de Jong admired the coach. Already in the next game, the Catalans crushed Villarreal (3:0), and a couple of days later they smashed Athletic (4:0).
The Barcelona players in the first moments after winning LaLiga
Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images
In these matches, the team was inspired not only by a specific mood, but also helped by the new scheme. Xavi switched to a concept with four central midfielders. After the World Cup break, a 3-2-4-1 with a 3-5-2 variant became Barça’s Plan A, which resolved the problems identified in that key week in October.
“I realized that we need more control and dominance”, admitted Xavi. – And also more pressure in the opposite field, which forced us to act with a very high defensive line. I gave preference to players who do not lose the ball. After all, that’s how I see football”. According to Opta, the culés defend an average of 50.5 meters from ter Stegen’s possessions, the highest in LaLiga.
An important component in the autumn transformation was the support of Xavi from the club management. The Barcelona coaching position is a place where it is difficult for any specialist to delay, Ronald Koeman himself complained about the lack of time. However, Xavi has received much more credibility due to his legendary status in Barcelona history and, not least, his Catalan identity. He is yours, he grew up and developed in Barcelona, and he is also associated with the football that the fans want to see. Bold, aggressive, based on possession of the ball.
Barça Xavi is unique. But it cannot be compared with the great team of Guardiola
The coach’s name is chanted in all the matches at the Camp Nou, especially in the most vociferous part of the stadium, at the foot of the Gol Nord stands, and his opinion carries special weight. His words are not just the words of the Barcelona coach, they have a broader and stronger impact. When he speaks, he does so with an expert knowledge of the Barcelona context: environment.
Xavi won the fight for influence in the club against the sports director
The term was coined by the legendary Johan Cruyff when he was managing the blue garnet in 1988. It means colossal pressure from the fans, the club’s management, sponsors and even regional politicians. Xavi also experienced an environment for himself when, in January of this year, President Joan Laporta, despite the coach’s objections, sold Memphis Depay to Atlético Madrid. Then the fate of the championship was a big question, and the specialist held on, but now he is ready to go all the way after rumors about the sale of defender Andreas Christensen, who has famously proven his worth. The culés hope to get at least 70 million euros for the Danish they got for free.
Xavi prepares Christensen against Real Madrid
Photo: David S. Bustamante/Getty Images
“Last year, I personally insisted on his transfer, I participated in the negotiations. I’m glad that Andreas has become a key player at the Camp Nou. I really want to see him in the future, I can’t imagine selling a player of this level”, Xavi sent in a hidden message to the Barça management. You can understand the coach, because Christensen played a big part in the fact that Barca conceded just 13 goals in 34 La Liga games and didn’t allow opponents to score in 25 games. There are only two clean sheets left to break Deportivo’s record for the 1993/1994 season.
Xavi clashed all season with the sports director Mateu Alemani, who tried to have the last word in the choice or sale of players. In the next round he won around the coach, who managed to veto Dembélé’s farewell and convince Laporta to extend his contract with the Frenchman. It turned out that Xavi was right: Usman had the best season at the Camp Nou since 2017, when the Catalans spent 140 million euros at Dortmund for him. The German realized the magnitude of the coach’s personality and in the summer he will leave calmer and a more satisfying job at Aston Villa.
Barça is champion thanks to the departure of Messi and the help of Real Madrid. But the main man leaves
Another great merit of Xavi is the ability to reveal players. This season, the coach was successful in a similar action with the eternal substitute Ronald Araujo. The tenacious and incredibly fast Uruguayan defender so impressed his coach and teammates that he claims to be captain next season. The team also won by bringing Pedri closer to someone else’s goal.
Everything Xavi wants to achieve as a manager can be seen in a 3-1 win over Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final in January. The way they dominated Madrid through possession is the standard the specialist is looking for. At the beginning of the spring, Barça stagnated a bit and allowed Real Madrid to take revenge in the Clásico (0-4) of the Spanish Cup, but this happened at a time when the Catalans could not count on Dembélé, Christensen, Pedri and de Jong.
Xavi tells the players inspiring stories from his past
Despite the title, Xavi’s current Barça project is only achieving the contours that the coach needs. Of great importance for its full implementation will be the next transfer window, after which the coach plans to have at least two players fighting for each place in the base. This means that the competition will be higher and the coach will have to meet with the players more often and convey his position to them. As has happened on more than one occasion this season with Alba and Kessier complaining about the lack of playing time.
Alba rushes to congratulate Kessier after the winning goal of the Clásico
Photo: Alex Caparrós/Getty Images
During the March home game against Valencia, Alba spent most of the second half warming up, after which Xavi still decided not to let go of him. The 34-year-old defender lit up in front of the team, and the coach took a break, and the next day he called the player to his office at the base and explained his position as intelligibly as possible. Kessier had similar complaints when he was left on the bench for the home Clasico on March 19.
“I tried to calm Franck down and told him the story of how I waited for my chance at Barcelona for several years before finding a place for myself at the base,” Xavi told The Athletic. -In 1999, he was 19 years old and was losing the competition with Guardiola, when the club received an offer from Milan. I thought it was a good choice, but my mom said a resounding no! He even threatened his father with divorce if he let me go to Italy. Our entire family passionately supported Barcelona. I refused the transfer and after a while I became the team leader.”
In that game with Real Madrid, Kessier came on as a 77th-minute substitute and gave Barça a 2-1 victory at discount. Xavi confirmed that, in addition to tactical skills, he is also an excellent psychologist. Not surprisingly, at the beginning of the summer, he is expected to renew a contract with a coach who has developed the ability to cope with all the manifestations of the environment at the genetic level in a year.
Guardiola called Xavi before the game with Real Madrid for a question. Details of the triumph of the City