FC Barcelona are rumored to have offered Xavi the chance to replace Ernesto Valverde as manager. It’s an exciting, albeit risky, proposition, and one that may yet fall through.
The biggest reason for the excitement is his legacy as a player. He is easily one of the best midfielders to ever do it, and his stamp on the tiki-taka style is undeniable. Ever since his playing days, it has seemed a matter of destiny that he would coach the Catalans. He knows the club inside and out, knows perfectly what the fans expect, how to handle the media, and most importantly, how to win in style.
The biggest drawback is also obvious, his lack of experience. The former Barcelona captain last played for Barcelona less than 5 years ago. His retirement as a player was last only last year. Sure, he’s taken charge at Al Sadd in the Qatar Stars League and done a good job, but it’s only been since 2019. And the level of football in Qatar is obviously much lower than La Liga’s.
There are other questions. Is this squad the right squad to play the prototypical possession game Xavi was known for in his heyday? Will he be pragmatic enough to try a different approach to accommodate an older team team or players such as Arturo Vidal?
Will he be firm enough with players who are not much younger than him, or were used to seeing him as a teammate and not a boss, such as Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets? Perhaps the sheer admiration he draws from those players will earn him the respect needed to increase the team’s discipline. Perhaps not.
Rumor has it that Xavi is not necessarily keen on accepting the job, even though it’s been a lifelong dream, precisely because he does not think it’s the right time. There’s a risk of burning his chance too soon by accepting a precarious situation. Coming in after the winter break, he’ll have very few, if any, transfers to request. And he’ll have very little time before his team will be playing elimination games, not to mention that Barcelona are top of the league by only goal difference.
Valverde, on the other hand, would surely point to the fact that they won their UEFA Champions League group and are still top of the league as proof that you can certainly do worse than he has this season.
Still, the excitement that Xavi could generate, and his vast football knowledge, seems to have convinced the board. They want to give him a chance. Is he the right man for the moment?