Barcelona is fed up with Xavi | Soccer | Sports

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Barcelona is trapped in a sporting, but above all emotional, see-saw. This state of permanent cyclothymia has generated wear and tear that leaves Xavi Hernández in the spotlight, practically with one foot outside of Barça. “We all know this club. “You never know what can happen,” they warn from the leadership of the Catalan club. It happens that the fatigue with the coach is no longer just political, but also footballing: there is no unity in the uniform institutional message, nor does the team find results on the field. Xavi’s entourage looks the other way. “They have not communicated anything to us and we know nothing about a hypothetical dismissal,” they emphasize. The club’s communications department is betting on patience: “There is nothing. “All rumors and too much noise.” However, there is no longer a manager or executive who trusts the coach. The cost of firing Xavi, in any case, is 20 million. Bad business for a club with a delicate economic situation.

The differences in criteria between Xavi and those responsible for the club are not new. In fact, president Joan Laporta was never convinced about hiring him. “He has no experience,” he justified. However, in November 2021, after firing Ronald Koeman, Barcelona needed an emotional inflator to deal with a possible institutional crisis. It was then that Xavi arrived to take the reins of the team. Initially, the coach aspired to a managerial role that would give him control of different areas of the first team. He was not allowed. He managed, in any case, to put together a coaching staff tailored to him, protected by the people he trusted the most. “I don’t understand how Xavi, after so many years in football, hasn’t been able to convince a top-level player to join his coaching staff,” the offices were surprised at the time.

But Xavi, from the start, worked. First as a shield, then as a coach: second position in LaLiga in the 2021-2022 season, champion in 2022-2023. “It was practically a miracle to have finished second in the first season,” the technical staff celebrated. Without the levers – the euphemism that Laporta made famous to explain the sale of assets -, which allowed the club to invest close to 200 million euros in signings in 2022, last summer the champion team could not go on the market with force, beyond the loans of João Félix and Cancelo, and the incorporation of free veteran players such as Iñigo Martínez and Gündogan. The only acquisition was that of Oriol Romeu (3.4 million). Xavi did not protest, on the contrary. “We have made a very good market, but now we have to prove it,” he said in September 2023.

The problem was that Barcelona deflated on the field, with nothing to celebrate since PSG eliminated them from the Champions League, Madrid from the League and Athletic from the Copa del Rey. Before, in January, they had already lost the classic Super Cup final.

At the moment when Barcelona no longer had practically anything to fight for, Xavi asked to continue. “To rectify is wise,” he argued. Three months earlier, in January, he had deferred his resignation. “I will leave at the end of the season. The feeling of being a Barça coach is unpleasant, it is cruel, you feel that they disrespect you many times, that your work is not valued. This is a terrible drain on mental health and mood. I am a positive guy, but the energy is going down, there is no point in continuing,” he had explained in January. Laporta and Deco accepted both “his goodbye” and his “I’m staying.” Of course, the president asked him: “Do you trust the staff?” “Yes,” Xavi responded the day they agreed that he would fulfill his contract until 2025 in Laporta’s penthouse. Already in public, the coach explained: “I see myself with strength and ability.”

But something (again) changed in Xavi: he went from trusting the squad in private to asking for reinforcements in public. And the sports management was upset. They weren’t the only ones. The coach’s most realistic and sincere message last Wednesday irritated the board. “The culé must understand that the situation is very complicated and that it has nothing to do with the situation 25 years ago. Now, the coach cannot ask ‘this one, this one and this one’. The objective is to change, if not, we will stay the same,” stated the Catalan coach.

“There are two issues,” explains one of the club’s top officials; “A political issue, which is what happened on Wednesday when Xavi gave a message opposite to the one he had given to the president; and there is also a sporting issue: the team does not improve.” That is what the managers opposed to Xavi’s continuity asked Laporta: “Will this team be better next season if Xavi continues? Well, then there is no point in continuing.” In sports management, however, they are not so decisive: “We cannot kill a coach for a press conference.” Xavi, for his part, continues to think the same as when he took the photo three weeks ago with Deco and Laporta. “I am strong,” he insists, with the same conviction with which he assures that this time he does not plan to resign.

One more change of script in Barcelona. And no one knows what’s going to happen anymore. Not even Xavi. The coach tried to meet with Laporta, but the president’s environment postponed the meeting for next week. Rafa Márquez (subsidiary coach) and Hansi Flick are already warming up. There are also managers who dream of Thomas Tuchel and sports management employees who think of Marcelo Gallardo. This Saturday Xavi will speak at a press conference, a new public predicament, precisely one of his weaknesses. But no one knows what to expect at FC Barcelona anymore.

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