DECRYPTION – The 41-year-old Spanish technician has a lot of work to do. Explanations.
It’s official. After tough negotiations and several days of real-false suspense, Xavi Hernandez takes over from Ronald Koeman on the FC Barcelona bench. The Spaniard is not returning to Catalonia only as a coach. In view of the sites that await him, he will also take on the role of works supervisor.
Back on track
The first mission incumbent on the ex-midfielder is simple: to raise the bar on the sporting level. The Blaugrana’s start to the season is not at all up to expectations. Before the 12th day, but with 11 games played, they point to a disappointing ninth place in the La Liga standings and are already relegated to eight units from their rival Madrid, runner-up to Real Sociedad.
In the Champions League, the Catalan team has garnered six points out of 12 possible and is second in its group … Six lengths behind Bayern Munich. It remains under threat from Benfica Lisbon (3rd, 4 points). It is these poor results, as well as the lack of progress, which cost his place to Ronald Koeman, sacked last week. Getting FC Barcelona out of its torpor before the situation becomes irrecoverable is the first major project that Xavi Hernandez will have to tackle. Not easy.
SEE AS WELL – Xavi’s first La Liga goal with FC Barcelona
Give back a (his) identity to FC Barcelona
Over the years, the Barcelona identity has faded to the point of being nothing more than an old chimera that is stirred in order to tease the most nostalgic characters. Rekindling the flame appears essential. The Spaniard is one of the few who can do this. It is one of the most illustrious symbols of the Catalan soul. Trained at Masia, he defended the Blaugrana tunic among professionals between 1998 and 2015 before flying to Qatar, at Al-Sadd, a club he then coached. With FC Barcelona, Xavi has won everything: eight championships, three Copa del Rey, four Champions Leagues … The list goes on. He was also one of the major elements of one of the most beautiful teams of all time, one of the most worthy representatives of the game “à la Barcelona”, of this so captivating “tiki-taka”, often imitated. , never equaled. A true legend. To give it back its identity, the 2010 World champion and double European champion will have to impose his paw both in the game and in all the components of the institution. A substantial task but necessary to revive a dying FC Barcelona.
Manage the personalities of the workforce
One of the other important projects that awaits Xavi is in the field of management. Despite the very disappointing results, the workforce of FC Barcelona is rich in all positions, or almost. They are not less than six players (Piqué, Araujo, Mingueza, Garcia, Lenglet, Umtiti) to apply for a place in central hinge. In the midfield or in the offensive positions, the competition is also very tough. The Spaniard will have to decide… and therefore be disappointed. His attitude towards the leaders, Gérard Piqué, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets or even Sergi Roberto, all former teammates, will be closely scrutinized. Especially since some, like the first and the last, show worrying signs of weakness.
How will he behave with them? If their level is insufficient, will he dare to put them on the bench? These questions are legitimate because they can influence the mood in the locker room. The 41-year-old technician will also have to manage playing time and by extension ego. He will have to be strong enough, firm, smart but also empathetic to keep all his workforce involved and encourage him to follow him in the direction he will impose.
Regenerate the workforce
The last major mission he will have to accomplish in the coming months is also related to the composition of the workforce. Despite some arrivals in the offseason, Eric Garcia, Memphis Depay, Luuk de Jong or Sergio Agüero, the Catalan team does not appear on paper as one of the best in Europe. The fault, in part, the surprise departure of Lionel Messi to Paris Saint-Germain. Some players are at the end of the cycle, others simply do not have the level to evolve in a formation which must aim – this is not the case this season – the national and European titles each year. Regenerating its workforce seems essential.
To do this, Xavi will be able to rely on the young people trained at the club, as Ronald Koeman was able to do by incorporating the surprising Gavi. Alex Badé, Riqui Puig, who appear with the professional group but whose playing times are limited, will they have a better chance? It’s a possibility. The Spaniard could also draw from the incredible pool of the reserve team. But it will also – and above all? – be smart about the transfer market. While he won’t be the sole decision-maker, his opinion will count for sure. It will be up to him to select the profiles that correspond to the philosophy he wishes to put in place. And the Barcelona identity.