This Monday, December 6, marks a month since Xavi Hernández fulfilled his dream and became Barça coach until June 2024. The agreement became official at 1:47 a.m., two more in Qatar, after a negotiation that had vaudeville overtones and of which it has never transpired how much money, if five as leaked in Barcelona or ten million euros as is assured in Doha, Barça had to pay for the departure of Xavi, who slipped that he had a release clause with Al Sadd to leave for free. But that never happened.
Announced on November 6, Xavi was officially presented on the 8th with a two-week break to catch up. The new coach’s first week was built around his new rules. “When we have had, we have done well; when we have not had them, we have done badly, nor have we competed.” Xavi’s new Barça, then, has returned an hour and a half before training, to eat at the Ciutat Esportiva and to implement a system of fines.
Laporta gave his coach a free hand from day one, who brought a whole team with him. His brother Òscar Hernández and Sergio Alegre are his assistants; Iván Torres, the new physical trainer and Sergio García, Toni Lobo and David Prats, the analysts. Only José Ramón de la Fuente continues as goalkeeping coach. At the moment, Xavi has been in office for four games, with two lucky victories against Espanyol and Villarreal, a fair draw against Benfica and a defeat with one point of injustice against Betis. “The flower is over and it’s all over, right?” He joked after his luck changed in the match against the Verdiblancos.
Xavi is clear about the instruction manual: the game of position, the suffocating pressure to recover the ball as soon as possible, the creation of superiorities, one against one of the extremes. The successful Barça model. But capturing it with the players he currently has will not be easy. It is clear that the process will be slow and will need reinforcements. First, of those who are injured at home, such as Pedri and Ansu to a greater extent; and also Braithwaite and Agüero. Barça has not played any game continuously. Against Espanyol, he suffered a ball in the last twenty minutes. Against Villarreal he was inferior in long stretches of the crash and against Betis, taking away the first quarter of an hour and the Dembélé effect, his football was not overwhelming either.
Regarding Koeman, what Xavi has changed is his speech. In front of the “is what there is” of the Dutch, the Egarense has affirmed, like its president, that it is possible to fight for the League (He is 16 points behind Madrid) and that at Barça you cannot tie or lose, results that he has already suffered as a coach. The message to the players has also been more positive
The coach has found a backbone in which Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Gavi, Nico, Frenkie de Jong and Memphis have become fixed from the beginning. In the central position, Xavi does have a choice and he is doing it. It started with Piqué and Eric against Espanyol, but it has given way to Araújo, now undisputed, and also to Lenglet, who has played two good games against Benfica and Betis. With Alba untouchable on the left, with her offensive successes and defensive oversights, the hole is on the right. The test with Dest was not satisfactory against Betis either.
The arrival of Xavi has filled Barcelona with enthusiasm, especially since he did not agree with Koeman, whom he saw as a somewhat anachronistic coach. Xavi represents modernity and evokes Barça’s most triumphant period. But already from the first days it has been clear that the process will be long and that the team, in part, has the same problems as in the previous stage. Of continuity in the game and goals, not to mention some defensive doubts, including those of the goalkeeper, Ter Stegen, at the lowest moment that he is remembered at Barça.
Logically, and after seeing what is in the first month, Xavi is no longer so bombastic. “This is reality and you have to assume it,” he said the other day in a phrase very close to the “is what there is” of Koeman. Xavi wants reinforcements. The name that has sounded the loudest is Ferran Torres, but there is not a euro in the box. We will see if by January 6, the designated day of Kings in which he will complete two months in office, Xavi has a gift.