He has been working in silence in the sports city for days. At the beginning he was almost alone because the players were in the exodus of the national teams. Then, already with the majority of the squad, but without forwards, he has been preparing Xavi Hernandez his return to Camp Nou. He left six years ago, then as captain.
Now, on the other hand, he comes almost as the last hope of a club, a hobby and even a president (Laporta changed her mind towards him) to start a new era. And it starts with a complex derby. His derby. Xavi’s derby.
“I’m less nervous than when I was a footballer”
He hasn’t been managing Barça for two weeks. And he has stealthily broken the bridges with the past, making momentous decisions in plumbing. Measures that go beyond establishing traditional norms of coexistence, no matter how much they are now advertised as revolutionary. He has come home. And he feels ready for the challenge of his life. From his short life as a coach.
Just two and a half years in Qatar they have served as a testing laboratory, both in tactics and in management. But nothing is comparable to Barça. And Xavi knows it better than anyone. But it does not worry. “I am less nervous than when I was a footballer,” he said yesterday at a long press conference. It was the first. And it lasted 32 minutes. He needed to answer 25 questions. “This positivism and illusion that has been generated around the club we must return in results.”
“The pressure is now for me, not for the players
The team is the same one that led Koeman. With the same deficiencies that I had before. Without stars of world-wide reach in his forward, orphan of goal, devoid of Messi and Griezmann, with whom he could not even fight for the League in the last two seasons. Not even peek into the great moments in Europe. The change is Xavi.
“The pressure is now for me, not for the players,” stressed the coach trying to isolate those players who have regenerated with his arrival from all responsibility. Aware as Xavi is that all of Barcelona, starting with President Laporta himself, has been given unconditionally to him.
He has arrived from Doha surrounded by a large group of aides, but in the end they all look at him. “The difficult thing is to do things on the field,” he said, referring to his time as a footballer. “Now I have to convey the idea. I am confident, the feelings are good,” he said.
“You don’t have to be a sergeant or shout
Xavi arrived on November 9 at the sports city of Sant Joan Despí and brought with him an instruction manual for coexistence with the squad. A manual that had always existed, but the passage of the years had caused it to fall into disuse. “Having a regulation is essential for a group,” said the technician, no matter how much later he was quick to reduce the importance of the series of rules that he has established.
“I have not had to be a sergeant or anything. It is a matter of order rather than discipline,” he said, recalling that his previous experience with this manual has served him well. “From what I have seen these days we are a pineapple we are a family. When I have had this order, both as a player and as a coach at Al Sadd, things have worked out.”
“We have been weighed with the group, we have given them the ember”
In less than two weeks, and without players at the beginning, Xavi has had to inoculate his idea to the footballers. But everything is not so easy. It takes, as the coach himself admitted, “time” to know if it has been captured immediately by the squad. “This week we have been very heavy with individual and collective talks.”
One by one the technician has been talking. With each player and then with a much more specific job since the conversations were by line. “We have talked about the defense, the attack, the strategy. We have given it a bit of the grill these days, but we believed that it is necessary to compete,” said Xavi, who hopes that “things can be seen in the team’s game, on the tactical and psychological issues “.
On Friday, for example, they started the training session with games to relax the atmosphere. “I do not know if this squad has been underestimated. I was not there before. I like what I see, attitude, intensity, predisposition … I was surprised by the talent that there is. You do any task of kicking the ball, high pressure , look for passing lines and the talent shows, “he said.
“Dani Alves is going to add to everything”
The coach received the call from Laporta and accepted that possibility that was open to Barça to rescue the defender, who had been unemployed since he won the Olympic gold with the Brazilian team at the Tokyo Olympics. “He is going to add us to everything,” said Xavi.
“The president told me about it, I gave it a spin and the signing was made. It was everyone’s decision,” argued the new coach, sure that “the spirit, soul and winning character” that Alves (38 years) radiates will to be key “both on and off the field”. He regretted, yes, not being able to have it until January.
“We are Barça, we must fight for everything”
The tactical idea that Xavi transmits is non-negotiable. “We want to play well, create chances, not speculate, press high and play in the opposite field,” he said, assuming that “we cannot fail” because the urgency of Barça (he is ninth in the League) leaves him without any margin for error. “We are restarting a project, we want our idea of the game to be seen. We are Barça, we must be fighting for all the titles. Although we know that we are not starting from scratch.”
“Being culé I am going to leave my life so that this works”
After a six-year hiatus in Doha, Xavi returns home. “I am culé. Now I am the one who has to decide. I am here to make decisions.” he affirmed with energy, aware that he must be tremendously interventionist to raise a decaying Barça. “Being culé I am going to leave my life so that this works. We owe ourselves to many people and we cannot fail them,” he said.
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