Xavi might not be ‘ready’ for Barcelona managerial role, but will be helped by lowered expectations

After what felt like forever, the worst kept secret in world soccer has now come out. Xavi Hernandez, an icon and legend at FC Barcelona, ​​is back at the club – this time as manager to replace the departed Ronald Koeman.

The process was very long drawn. Xavi was signed to Qatari club Al-Sadd, meaning that Barcelona needed to pay to get him out of his contract. Given the club’s precarious finances, not to mention the fee they would pay Koeman, this was easier said than done.

Reports suggest that Xavi paid for a portion of the clause himself, such was his eagerness to take up the job. It has nothing to do with al-Sadd; He was doing well for the Qatar Stars League (QSL) side but left only because Barcelona were too tough to turn down.

Another reason the process took so long was president Joan Laporta’s objections to the former midfielder. This has little to do with his inexperienced coaching career, although that may be a factor.

However, Xavi’s ties to Victor Font – a man who contested the presidential election from Laporta but lost – also reportedly played a role.

But now the call has been made, and Barcelona are welcoming a club legend to the managerial position. Of course, given the realities of Barcelona as we speak, many would argue that the hard part starts now.

Xavi was always destined to get a managerial job one day. However, circumstances at the club meant that the call came earlier than anyone expected.

Xavi – still a relative novice at the managerial level

Recent years have seen top clubs hand over the managerial reigns to club veterans. Manchester United appointed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer first on an interim and then on a permanent basis.

Chelsea brought in Frank Lampard, Mikel Arteta got the Arsenal gig and Andrea Pirlo managed Juventus for a season. The results of this little trend have been mixed, to say the least.

Lampard and Pirlo both got the sack, the first after a season and a half and the second after a season. Solskjaer remains in charge at United, although there are doubts over his ability to take the club to the next level.

The same can be said of Arteta, who despite winning the FA Cup in 2020 is yet to stamp his authority on the club. Importantly, both are still employed.

At first glance, Xavi might be seen as a similar appointment. His time at Al-Sadd was successful and his managerial record is as follows: 64 wins, 16 draws and 17 losses in 97 games in charge.

He also won 7 trophies during his time at the club. However, it goes without saying that the Qatari domestic scene is far from the elite of European football.

Thus, the veteran former midfielder hasn’t got a chance to prove himself at the top level. To make things worse, his first chance to do so comes at the top of the game. Considering his apparent ties to the club, this is by no means an ideal situation for him.

But then again, the situation is hardly an ideal one, even for Barcelona.

Barca’s turmoil works in Xavi’s favor

As things stand, the club are 9th in La Liga and close to qualifying for the Champions League knockouts. The Squad is a hot mess; To make things worse, the club doesn’t have the money to fix things quickly.

The coronavirus pandemic complicated matters, but Barca’s financial situation was treacherous even before that. This is not the kind of mess any manager wants to inherit.

But this is the exact thing that could give Xavi time to make his mark on the team. And he has some advantages over predecessor Koeman.

The Dutchman, despite having been trained in the ways of Johan Cruyff, was by no means a Cruyffian in terms of footballing ideology. None of his club stints have seen him gain a reputation for playing free-flowing, attacking football.

And it was even worse in Barcelona. Koeman, fully aware that managerial criteria are results, abandoned any notion of style of play. Hence the push to sign Luk de Jong. So Gerrard is sticking the puck in front and lobbing long balls.

Barcelona fans will accept it – shamelessly, but still – if the results hold. But Barca’s results plummeted almost as fast as Cruyff’s devotion to his ideals did.

Laporta is, in every way, a Cruyffian idealist. Hence the appointment of son Jordi on an advisory role. And hence the push for Xavi – someone trained in the very ideals that Cruyff held to high standards. But importantly anyone who wants to play just like that.

Xavi’s Al-Sadd side played some attractive football and he will be keen to impose that on the current Barca side. At least, it’ll retain more hardcore fans and Social And; Even if they lose, at least they are not playing Route One football.

But will Barca’s financial situation improve?

Yes. It will not be an easy path and will involve massive success of the foregoing, at least in the short term. But the current board is acknowledging the need to at least make changes and get the club’s finances back on track.

The return of match-day revenue will help in the short term, but Barca’s cash flow issues run deeper. There is a vital need to refresh the squad with players being sold and bought.

There is also the fact that Barca will have to make transferring high earners a priority; Something that is easier said than done. But it has to happen at some point.

It is only through the sale of players that they will receive the necessary funds to survive in the short term. And only then can they think about building for the long term.

Good thing it has nothing to do with the manager. Xavi’s main task at this point will be to implement that style of play and keep the club in the top 4. Anything else is a bonus.

The financial mess will take time to iron out, and Xavi will play a minimal role in that work. Which means that, in theory, he can focus on what he does best: training players and bringing football back to its glory.

In an ideal world, he wouldn’t have to work around this mess. But it’s the very blunder that could ensure he doesn’t become another managerial casualty, instead rebuilding the club that is still close to his heart.

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