Xavi Hernández set to become new Barcelona manager
With dreadful club finances, new coach will face huge task of keeping Barça in the Champions League
After months of rumours, intensified since Ronald Koeman’s sacking last week, the man who was pitted to be a future Barcelona manager ever since his playing days has finally been given the hot seat.
Xavi Hernández will be the new FC Barcelona manager after the club agreed on a ‘transfer’ of the head coach with Al Sadd SC. The Qatari outfit first confirmed the departure of their former manager on Friday morning, with FC Barcelona announcing Xavi's arrival on their own social media channels in the early hours of Saturday morning, saying simply, "Mister X6VI".
𝑀𝑖𝑠𝑡𝑒𝑟 X6VI pic.twitter.com/r7Z4Y4fB0L— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) November 6, 2021
The English word mister is commonly used in Catalonia and Spain to address football managers, while the number 6 was the former midfield maestro's squad number during his playing days. Xavi himself said he was "coming back home" on an Instagram post, promising to "work and fight ... to reach together the place we deserve."
THE STORY CONTINUES ... pic.twitter.com/JhMCuIYt8u— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) November 6, 2021
The former blaugrana midfielder had been in Qatar ever since he left Barça in 2015, first as a player, before taking over as manager in 2019.
His short management career to date has already yielded seven trophies in the Middle Eastern nation, adding to the four titles he picked up as a player at the same club.
Earlier in his career, the Terrassa native was one of the instrumental cogs in Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Barcelona team that claimed six trophies in 2009.
Xavi’s last ever game for Barça ended with him lifting the Champions League trophy, and now he returns to Barcelona with targets set on the same competition but with very different expectations and challenges.
Back then, his Barcelona side were the kings of European football, indisputably one of the greatest teams on the planet. Nowadays, things are very different, and realistically Barcelona are unlikely to compete in the latter stages of the European Cup this year.
Instead, the focus should lie squarely on simply ensuring qualification for the tournament next campaign. This is imperative for the money that comes with competing in Europe’s premier competition, something so important for Barcelona due to their grave financial situation.
Debts and liabilities now sit at around €1.35 billion, as revealed by club president Joan Laporta recently. Failure to finish in the top four in La Liga this season would be disastrous for next season’s incomings, and would require the club to once again rearrange their finances with even more potential departures in the playing squad.
The fiscal collapse of the club has meant that many high-profile big earners have had to leave in recent years, including Leo Messi, Antoine Griezmann, and Luis Suárez.
What goes in Xavi’s favour in his return to Barcelona is the chance to mould some of the most exciting young players coming through the club’s La Masia academy ever since Hernández’s own generation.
Ansu Fati has already emerged as the next great hope of the team, perhaps even the entire club, while midfielders Gavi and Nico are enjoying breakout campaigns and rightfully earning starting places in the first XI.
Added to that trio are other exciting young stars such as Eric García, who grew up in La Masia but left for a few years to play in England, as well as Pedri and Ronald Araújo.
Xavi’s job as the new manager will not be like most superclubs, which are often packed with some of the best players in the world at the peak of their careers. Instead, this will very much be a coaching job, one where Xavi will have to shape many of these young players into the future stars they can be.
The appointment of Xavi Hernández as coach of Barcelona comes at a very delicate time for the club. A lot of pressure and expectation will be placed on his shoulders as the club currently finds itself in dire straits financially, with precious little room to get big decisions, such as a managerial appointment, wrong.