Is it the right time for Xavi to take the managerial position at Barcelona?
Ernesto Valverde has been in hot water ever since that fateful night at Anfield last May. The Spaniard received heavy criticism from Barcelona fans as the Catalan club failed to defend a first-leg three-goal advantage for the second year running. The situation worsened as Barcelona failed to win the Copa del Rey after losing to Valencia in the final and had to settle only for a league title in the 2018-19 season.
Even when Valverde was receiving so much flak from the fans, the Barcelona board showed no real intentions to sack him. The players also made it clear that they backed their coach and were satisfied with his approach. Hence, Barcelona started the 2019-20 season with Valverde as manager, much to the dismay of Barca fans.
Barcelona started their league campaign with an away defeat against Athletic Bilbao and struggled in the opening fixtures of LaLiga as they were placed at the 8th spot in the league table with 7 points after the first five games. The Catalan club picked up some pace after that as they went on to win their next five league games and reached the pole position in LaLiga. However, some recent mediocre performances have once again raised questions about Valverde's competency as Barcelona's coach.
The defeat suffered at the hands of Atletico Madrid in the Spanish super cup earlier this week by a scoreline of 3-2 opened up old wounds as once again Barcelona after taking the lead failed to defend it. Some defensive frailties during the final 10 minutes of the game handed the win to Atletico, leaving all Barcelona players and fans utterly disappointed.
The Barcelona board is now considering to replace Valverde and reports have been emerging that a familiar face might be returning to the club. Barcelona's sporting director, Eric Abidal and CEO Oscar Grau held a meeting with former Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernadez on Friday in Doha. It is being reported that the current Al-Sadd manager was offered a deal to replace Valverde.
Xavi is a Barcelona legend who was a pivotal member of Pep Guardiola's squad that dominated Europe for 4 years. He left for Qatari club Al-Sadd in 2015 after winning a second historical continental treble with Barcelona.
The 39-year-old former Spanish international is destined to coach Barcelona someday as he is a master of the club's core philosophy. However, his arrival at Barcelona at the moment may seem a little forced due to the club's determination to get rid of Valverde.
Barcelona's vulnerability could affect Xavi's approach
Barcelona are in a highly vulnerable position at the moment as they have failed to win the Champions League in the last four seasons and are desperate to make a mark at the European front this season. If Xavi arrives at Barcelona in such an atmosphere where anything less than a treble is considered a failure, he is bound to feel the pressure which will affect his tactical approach.
Xavi is expected to have tactics that match his former coach Pep Guardiola as he thrived under that football system. The tiki-taka style of football does not guarantee instant success as the players need to have a tactical connection with one another in order to effectively accomplish that style on the field.
When Guardiola arrived at Barcelona in 2008, he lost the opening LaLiga fixture and won only two of his five competitive games in-charge. However, after overcoming the initial blip, he established himself as one of the greatest football managers in the world.
If Xavi takes charge of the club mid-season, he will be expected to deliver from day one as currently Barcelona are engaged in a tussle with arch-rivals Real Madrid for the top spot of LaLiga. In such a situation a single bad result could tarnish Xavi's legacy at the Catalan club and hamper his ability to establish himself as a competent manager.
Xavi's lack of experience as a manager
There are no doubts surrounding Xavi's capabilities as a player; however, he is yet to prove himself as a successful manager. He has been in-charge of Al-Sadd since 28 May, 2019 and has had a decent run till now as the Qatari club reached the semi-final of the 2019 AFC Champions League, won the 2019 Sheikh Jassim Cup and is currently placed at the 3rd position in the 2019-20 Qatar Stars League.
The former Barcelona player has a win percentage of 53.85% as he has won 14 games of the 26 games he has been in charge of the Qatari club. It is visible that Xavi still needs some time to develop as a world-class manager and a move to Barcelona could hamper just that.
While it is clear that Xavi will feature on the sidelines for Barcelona one day, forcing this move at the moment could have catastrophic consequences for both, the club and their beloved Spaniard.Published 11 Jan 2020, 23:39 IST