Xavi was a unique player, and as it turns out, singular among coaches as well.
It’s fair to call out his shortcomings during his time as Barcelona manager, and even to suggest that maybe he was too inexperienced for the job in the first place.
But looking back, I can’t imagine Joan Laporta finding anyone better given the circumstances surrounding the team and the club back in November of 2022.
Xavi is a man of the club, perhaps to a fault. His dedication to the colors, the city, and the fans cannot be denied.
Everyone has an ego, and if you’re the best midfielder in the history of the game, surely you’re not immune to a sense of grandiosity. That you can use football alone to fix deep problems that go well beyond the play on the field.
Maybe one day Xavi will give an interview, and explain what was going on in his head when he left Qatar, and agreed to take over from an embattled and maligned Ronald Koeman.
It’s possible that we all projected onto Xavi our assumption that he would be a tactical mastermind, given who he was as a player, and the great coaches he played for.
But truthfully, Xavi never really preached a singular way of playing. In the end, what we saw on the field was quite simple. A continuation of what was in place at the club in the years that preceded him.
What made Xavi different was his style of management, and the players that he counted on, and the ones that he didn’t rate.
In his first half season in charge, he mostly got things right. When everyone inside and outside of the club was ready to go to war with Ousmane Dembele, he recognized the Frenchman as a difference maker who was the best the team could offer. He brought in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Adama Traore on loan, and got immediate results from them as well.
He also made the mistake of making Ferran Torres his first singing marque.
In the short term, things worked out for Xavi and the team because of the low-risk, high-reward decisions he made. Backing Dembele who was still under contract, and getting some dynamic attacking options on temporary deals.
Torres, along with Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha, were Xavi’s downfall. Expensive and risky bets that didn’t pay off. Instead, they held back a forward line that could never get going.
And still, when it’s all said and done, Xavi will be able to say he made Barcelona the kings of Spain again. No small achievement given the disarray he inherited.
And ultimately, as of today at least, it looks like he will leave the team better off than they were when he arrived.
That being said, Xavi didn’t resign effective immediately.
He’s taking another risk by sticking around until the end of year.
This is a gamble that could play in his favor, or could backfire if the team can’t turn around their form.
The absolute minimum goal is to finish in the top four in La Liga, and to qualify for next year’s Champions League.
A stretch goal at this point, but one the team absolutely needs to strive for, is to finish top two, and to make a run in the Champions League.
Girona and Real Madrid aren’t slowing down, but Xavi will get one more crack at both of them to narrow their lead.
Napoli is not a good team. They sit in ninth place in Serie A. Barcelona will be expected to get past them, although we should acknowledge they will have to play good and smart football in order to do so.
By choosing to stick around until the end of the season, Xavi once again is betting on himself.
He wants to go out with a happier ending, even while he recognizes that new management is needed for the good of the club in the long term.
The question now is whether the players will back their manager. Come out with some fire and give him a response.
Change the momentum and the course of the season.
Put some wins together in La Liga to build confidence heading into their big game against Napoli.
Keep in mind things could also get worse.
Is there a world in which Laporta sacks Xavi?
Probably not. But there is a chance, if things don’t get better, that Xavi’s reputation suffers even more.
My guess is that things do start to turn around.
Say what you want about Xavi, but people like and respect him. And the players have never stopped playing for him, even if he’s struggled to get them to fight hard in recent months. The show of support from Pedri, Gavi, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, and others, can’t be denied.
Maybe now, they’ll get out of their heads, and show some pride for a coach who’s had so many of their backs.
Barcelona is a special club, and Xavi is a remarkable Blaugrana legend.
He’s sacrificed a lot, and given fans a lot to cheer about. Surely, he deserves a positive sendoff.
It’s up to the players to deliver. For their sake, and his.