Will Xavi leave Barça? From ‘I’m leaving’ in January to ‘I’m staying’ in April

Will Xavi leave Barça?  From ‘I’m leaving’ in January to ‘I’m staying’ in April

Xavi finds it difficult to leave Barça. It’s understandable. It’s about his house. And it is no exaggeration. It cost him as a player (he planned to leave in 2014 after the difficult year with Tata and did so a year later, becoming the captain of the 2015 treble) and it also costs him now as a coach. Although it no longer depends on him. It’s all in the hands of Joan Laporta, so the coach’s margin of action has been reduced to the maximum. It is not there to ask but to wait for the president’s decision.

Xavi is 44 years old and has spent more than half his life at the club. At the beginning, he spent 24 years going through all the categories (he started in Alevín A) until he became the second player after Messi (778) who has worn the first team shirt the most times with 767 games.

He went to Qatar and returned in November 2021 as a coach to occupy Koeman’s bench without previously going through the reserve team as the president intended. John Laportaalso being the electoral flag of Victor Font, the candidate defeated in the elections. In other words, Xavi has now been installed in the club for almost 27 years, so it is difficult for him to leave it, even though it was he himself who set the expiration date.

“I’m leaving, the club needs a change of dynamic. This will free the players. I feel relieved”

There is no precedent in Barça’s contemporary history of a coach firing himself. Some, like Guardiola, Luis Enrique or Tata Martino, did not want to continue. But no one said goodbye like Xavi did on January 27. It was then, after the defeat with Villarreal (3-5), when he signed his release because he understood that “it was the best for the club.”

Contradictory signals

Now, not even three months have passed since that night when Laporta asked him, without any success, not to rush. As soon as he left (“I feel relieved,” he confessed), he already sent contradictory signals in his message. He had not left and left, almost immediately, the door open for his return.

Xavi, in the Barça-Villarreal match on January 27 when he announced his departure after the defeat in Montjuïc (3-5). / JORDI COTRINA

“I do not rule out returning. I have already said it many times: I am a club man and the club will have me available for whatever it needs. But now it does not need me,” he said on January 30, admitting, of course, that “We need more enthusiasm, another type of coach and person, hence my announcement.”

“I don’t rule out returning. I have already said it many times: I am a club man and the club will have me available for whatever it needs. But now it doesn’t need me.”

Little by little, Xavi’s message has been changing, coinciding with the team’s reaction to the point that he is now considering continuing, despite the fact that Barça is about to close the season blank. It no longer depends only on him. He had power until January 27. And the president, who kept him because he is who he is, has the last word.

Laporta heads to the Barça squad before Xavi, Yuste and Deco, in the dressing room of Sant Joan Despí. / FC BARCELONA

Now the decision should be in the hands of Deco, the sports director, who does not have the complicity that Mateu Alemany and Jordi Cruyff did exhibit with the coach. It would have to be the Portuguese executive who chooses the new coach.

Be it keeping Xavi, something increasingly difficult, choosing Márquez or opting for another more disruptive route, which does not work at Barça now. And then, once the market and the economic possibilities of the entity have been explored (they are minimal), they will transfer that resolution to the president.

The club’s doubts

That should be the hierarchical order of the election, although the almost exclusive power that Laporta holds significantly alters that roadmap. The club is bewildered by the coach’s sudden change of opinion. In these three months, Xavi has been trying to erase the traces that he made in January.

At first, he was firm in his position. “I’m leaving and that’s it. The process of being a Barça coach is not worth it. On a day-to-day basis you don’t enjoy it. I’ve seen coaches at this club suffer even when they win. I don’t enjoy Monday to Friday,” he said.

It was January 30th. “It’s cruel and unpleasant. They make you feel worthless every day. Pep, Valverde already told me, I saw Luis Enrique suffer… we have a problem in terms of demands. It’s not enjoyable… you risk your life at every moment. It’s cruel,” he said just three days after saying goodbye.

“It was the right decision. I made it clear about my goodbye. Nothing has to change.”

From there, and throughout almost all of February, he maintained his opinion that “it had been a correct decision and nothing has to change,” until weeks later he introduced a nuance: “To this day nothing has changed. There is no theme. Step by step and think about Athletic,” the coach commented at the beginning of March, while he was modulating the tone including temporal nuances before the big change took place.

“To this day nothing has changed. There is no issue. Step by step”

First, designed in the privacy of the locker room of the sports city when the team was rebuilding itself, winning games and on the verge of overcoming the barrier of the Champions League quarterfinals after the 2-3 draw in the first leg at the Parc des Princes with PSG. It was those moments, in the days when he beat Atlético in the Metropolitano (0-3), when he felt stronger to defend his figure to pilot the project.

Laporta and Xavi greet each other in training ahead of the second leg of the Champions League against PSG. / Marcos López

For this reason, the coach told the club that what was said in January did not have to be repeated in April. Although in public he maintained the same position. And he doesn’t do that much. “With my decision I was convinced that we would be here, otherwise it would have been a disaster.. There has been much more tranquility in the environment. We all have peace of mind knowing that I have an expiration date. Me too! And the decision is not going to change,” he argued on April 12.

“We are all calm knowing that I have an expiration date. Me, too! And the decision is not going to change”

It was his last message before the change was known because then the coach took refuge in a phrase to avoid a structural issue in the future. “The important thing is not me, the important thing is the club,” he used to say just before the five days (PSG and Madrid) arrived in which Barça lost everything. But he did not modify Xavi’s original and unexpected plan in any way, who placed a new expiration date in his future: summer 2025. Although it is no longer in his hands. Not much less. It depends more than ever on Laporta.

2024-04-24 15:46:49
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