Xavi at Barcelona: A Reunion Gone Horribly Wrong

Between countless European collapses, financial ruin and losing the greatest player of all time for free, it has been quite the tumultuous decade for FC Barcelona. But the latest chapter in this book of embarrassments may just be the biggest humiliation of all. After performing a U-turn and announcing he is staying as manager, Xavi is reportedly due to be sacked over comments he’s made about the club’s financial state. Being a Barcelona fan is not for the faint-hearted and they must be wondering how on earth they got to this position? Let’s find out. 


Joan Laporta, Barcelona’s president is not afraid of making big decisions. In 2008, he chose Barcelona B coach, Pep Guardiola, instead of Porto’s treble winner Porto and the biggest manager in the world, Jose Mourinho, to be manager of Barcelona. What resulted was the greatest four-year stretch in Barcelona’s history. 14 trophies and arguably the greatest footballing team ever created. But since coming back in 2021, Laporta has promised the world and has come up empty-handed.


He promised calmness, Lionel Messi’s renewal, financial security and the Champions League. 19838 magical financial levers later, Barcelona still need to sell their best players this summer, Messi left in tears and the Champions League quarter-final has been the furthest they reached.



Combine this with the shuffling at the boardroom level making it a circle of his friends instead of the best professionals for the job, it is clear he has failed to live up to his promises so far. For example, getting rid of the highly regarded Mateu Alemany as football director for ex-Barcelona midfielder and a novice in Deco, it is clear that Laporta is thinking more with his heart than his head. An honest trait but sometimes not the best one as the president of one of the biggest institutions in sports.


In hiring Xavi, he tried to recreate his previous success in hiring Guardiola. Xavi represented everything about Barcelona on the pitch. Passing, touch, speed of thought and vision. Laporta thought he could bring those same ideals to the dugout. After winning La Liga and the Supercopa in 2022/2023, there was much optimism going into this season. Yet, it has gone horribly with the club finishing trophyless and 12 points behind eternal rivals Real Madrid.


This all led to Xavi handing in his resignation in January for the end of the season. A well-run club would have accepted this and sought to plan his successor and future transfer windows. But the clown show at Barcelona never ends and Laporta was pining for Xavi to stay. 


When he did, it showed that they did not have a plan in the summer and were hoping for their greatest-ever midfielder to reignite last season’s spark. But Xavi’s position has almost suddenly become untenable after the board was angered over realistic comments about Barcelona’s known financial situation. Xavi said “Our fans and club members must understand the situation is very difficult, above all on the economic level, for us to compete with our top rivals, whether it be Real Madrid or teams in Europe”.



To be so angry at a comment which tempers expectations back to reality shows how childish and emotional Laporta and Barcelona’s board are. It is also a symptom of a deep-rooted disease at the club. A disease called nostalgia.


The club is still trying to recreate the glory of 2008 – 2012. In 2012, Usain Bolt defended his 100 and 200m Olympic title. Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” was the biggest song in the world. And the Mayan calendar said the world was going to end. 2012 was a weird and wonderful time, but time stands still for no one, a fact Barcelona have not accepted. 


They are held captive by a period which had all the pieces come together at once. Three generational midfielders, the greatest player of all time alongside the greatest manager of his generation. They must stop reminiscing like a bitter ex, and move on into 2024 or risk being left behind, if they haven’t been already.


Guardiola has moved on from 2012. Since leaving Barcelona he has won titles in almost every season, completed a treble and created the most dominant team in Premier League history which has won a record four Premier League titles in a row. In doing so, he has accepted the need for change in his playing style. 



He has used directness in the form of Erling Haaland and Kevin DeBruyne to devastating effect with a treble last season. If the architect of their great team, Johan Cruyff’s prodigy can change, why can’t the powers that be at Barcelona do the same? Why are they imprisoned by a dogmatic ignorance in a style of play which cannot be changed at all as it is the “only” style of play that can win trophies? It seems the verticality which led to the 2015 Champions League, the last time they won it, led by a front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, has been forgotten.


This dogmatic ignorance is systemic throughout the whole club. It led to the infamous 4-0 loss against Liverpool and the 3-0 loss against Roma, It led to them not being able to qualify out of their Champions League group stage last season and then falling to Manchester United in the knockout rounds of the Europa League. 


It led to them collapsing again to Paris Saint Germain in the quarter-final via a Ronald Araujo red card. A fragility, originating in their lack of ability to adapt in tough circumstances, especially away from home, rooted in their dogma has led this team to changing from Europe’s most feared to Europe’s biggest joke. How much can change in a decade. They need only to look across to their biggest rivals, Real Madrid, who have thrived in the past decade on how to run a football club whilst still retaining their core values.


Whilst Barcelona have become the laughingstock of Europe, Real Madrid have cemented their status as the biggest club in football. They have collected numerous trophies like they are stamps and have the chance to attain their 15th Champions League, in the final against Borussia Dortmund. They also have the best player in the world, Kylian Mbappe, joining them on a free this summer.



Florentino Perez, Madrid’s president has built a super team of the world’s best youngsters whilst operating shrewdly in the transfer market. He bought in the likes of David Alaba and Antonio Rudiger for free and has built a team which is the perfect blend of youth and experience. Whilst Barcelona on the other hand have thrown their young players to to the lions and have now suffered the consequences of doing so.


Pedri and Gavi who are 21 and 19, are starters for both club and country, have won the Golden Boy award. Alejandro Balde at 20 has already replaced the legendary Jordi Alba. Pau Cubarsi at 17, plays with the aura of a veteran defender and youngest of all, Lamine Yamal who at 16, became Spain and Barcelona’s youngest-ever goalscorer and is already considered to be an elite winger. Yet, even with the treasure trove of talent at La Masia, Barcelona still find a way to ruin things.


It seems that player welfare does not exist in Catalonia. Pedri has been ran into the ground by playing 52 games in his first season and playing both the Euros and Olympics that summer, playing 73 games in total. Since then he has had a litany of injuries and can never stay fit. Gavi played 111 games over two and a half seasons. He then suffered an ACL injury to his right knee and a damaged meniscus in a meaningless Euro Qualifying game against Georgia, after Spain had already qualified.


Balde has not made an appearance since suffering a hamstring injury in January. With Yamal making 49 appearances in his first professional season at the tender age of 16, Barcelona have not learnt from their previous mistakes. This reliance on youth is due to poor transfers and short-term thinking which have led them to be chucked into a baptism of fire. Thus, these youngsters are breaking down like cheap second-hand cars instead of being treated like the prized convertibles they are.



This is the crux of the issue at Barcelona. The term rebuild does not exist in their dictionary. Instead of slowly building around their youth, being financially savvy and working their way back to the top, they are constantly in a winnow mode. Because of this approach, they are constantly looking to make two steps forward but in doing so, drag themselves backwards three steps. They are constantly trying to buy world-class players whilst balancing the books.  In doing so, they are still in the same mess they were when Laporta first came in with just one La Liga in 3 years to show for it. 


Barcelona is a case of mismanagement, becoming ideologically imprisoned and having no plan. It is a club with unrelenting media and fans who expect nothing but the best and anything less is treated as failure. Laporta should have tempered expectations but he has promised the world and has subsequently gone scorched earth on Xavi.


Now we wait to see what will happen after their final La Liga game against Sevilla. Will Xavi leave the cub for a second time, will they sell their best players and will Laporta form a functioning and coherent boardroom? Nobody knows. But it will sure as hell will be entertaining. 


By: Abu Yasin / @Abuy2j

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Pressinphoto / Icon Sport