Madrid, November 7 (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News – November 7, 2021): Xavi Hernandez has been waiting to be Barcelona coach for six years and is preparing much longer, but he never could have imagined it would turn out like that.
After his last match in Barcelona in 2015, Xavi stood on the field of the Olympic Stadium in Berlin with his left hand on the right ear of the European Cup.
Andres Iniesta held the trophy with him and with their hands free they both raised four fingers, one for each of their Champions League triumphs.
The previous Saturday Xavi had won the Copa del Rey and the previous Saturday La Liga, three titles and another hat-trick, the second of his career, complete.
He left for Qatar at the end of a season where his role had been reduced, his relevance questioned, but still at the top, and with Barcelona at the top of the world.
Xavi was named coach on Saturday morning with the ninth La Liga side and facing a fight to come out of his Champions League squad.
Iniesta is long gone and Lionel Messi plays for Paris Saint-Germain. Those who remain from the Xavi era, like Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, have surpassed their best.
More players will have to leave and few will arrive as Barcelona continue to settle crushing debts of € 1.35 billion.
The club’s 99,000-seat Camp Nou is obsolete and increasingly empty. Against Alaves last week, only 37,278 fans came to watch.
Can it get worse? Barcelona could slide further into La Liga, but that seems unlikely. They could miss the Champions League round of 16 and advance to the Europa League – but no one could blame Xavi for the losses which made qualifying difficult.
At some point, for a club whose income, stadium capacity, history and players remain among the best in the world, a crisis becomes an opportunity.
Only so far can a club like Barcelona fall.
When Xavi was a player, he never died. After training he watched games, not only from La Liga, but from lower Spanish divisions, and not just in Spain, but across Europe and America.
On the pitch, his understanding of space and form made up for his lack of stature and rhythm. He performed under Pep Guardiola and was considered the epitome of the famous “tiki-taka” style.
All of this fuels the excitement around Xavi, the belief that he is not just another elite former player – with a history, reputation and titles – but also a self-taught coach, academic, eager to impose their own formulas now on the game.
Its ability to rebuild will be tested over a longer period of time, but in the short term there appear to be achievable goals.
Xavi arrived with Barcelona ninth, a starting position from which they can quickly improve.
They might not be able to fight for the title this season – Real Madrid are already 10 points ahead – but they can finish in the top four which would be a relief.
They can advance to the knockout stages of the Champions League, a comeback that has already started with back-to-back wins over Dynamo Kiev, and which Xavi could now complete.
They can lift the fans by playing more attractive football. Underachieving players like Frenkie de Jong can be revived. Talented young people like Ansu Fati, Pedri and Gavi can be shaped.
Xavi also has a clean slate, hindsight on where former coach Ronald Koeman went wrong. He will know that there is a difference between realism and pessimism, that Barcelona’s problems cannot become excuses.
Koeman discovered that low expectations only lasted so long. The allowances that were made in his first season became sticks to beat him in his second.
Xavi will need to continue to move, adapt and level up, even as financial limitations remain and rivals like Real Madrid recover from the pandemic faster and strengthen themselves more significantly.
The road will be far from straightforward, with Barcelona’s biggest crisis in years making one of football’s toughest jobs more difficult.
But for now, there is room for improvement, which for Xavi is a starting point.