Physical Education Teacher or Victim of the System? Assessing Xavi's Departure
The Barcelona fan community has long been divided in their opinions of Xavi. Some view him as a complainer and a typical physical education teacher, while others see him as a hostage to circumstances. Who is closer to the truth?
Xavi's constant complaining is a fact. Complaints about referees, the length and quality of the pitch watering, and even the sun are almost a staple in every other press conference. To be fair, he rarely cited these factors as the main reasons for failures, often prioritizing his own mistakes and the opponent's skill. However, his endless appeals to external circumstances sometimes seemed like an attempt to shift part of the responsibility away from himself.
Xavi can't boast of fantastic results, but it seems that there are deliberately inflated expectations. Last year's championship and a top-4 finish with a spot in the Champions League playoffs for a rebuilding team are commendable achievements.
However, Xavi's main accomplishments lie in reducing the toxicity level inherited from Ronald Koeman, trusting youth players, and developing talents. Under his guidance, players like Frenkie de Jong and Ousmane Dembélé shone, while Gavi and Pedri progressed and secured their spots in the starting lineup. Lamin Yamal, Fermin Lopez, Marc Guiu, Hector Fort, and Pau Cubarsi made their debuts. Betting on "La Masia" (Barcelona's youth academy) is what Barcelona lacked since the days of Pep Guardiola.
Critics tend to underestimate the misfortune that befell the team this season. If last year Barcelona didn't concede where they shouldn't, now players are failing to score easy goals (-7.5 goals from xG in La Liga) and constantly conceding from the first shots, putting themselves in uncomfortable match scenarios. The wild epidemic of injuries doesn't help either; currently, seven people, including the reliable Joao Cancelo, are unavailable for various reasons.
At the same time, Xavi has no influence on transfers and is forced to work with players signed by Joan Laporta. The president acts based on his own, often non-sporting considerations: the arrival of Robert Lewandowski is driven by a desire to attract a star and make money in marketing, João Félix is influenced by Laporta's personal preferences and friendship with Jorge Mendes, and so on. The coach's desires don't matter; if necessary, they will force the integration of unnecessary players, sell key players like Dembélé, and release key veterans like Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba without finding worthy replacements.
Despite all these factors, in 2.5 years under Xavi, Barcelona has taken a significant step forward. So, the sad departure of the legend is a story about incompetent leadership rather than a coaching failure, although Xavi is not without fault.
Published by Patrick Jane