With Ronald Koeman potentially in his final days as Barcelona manager, Xavi Hernandez has been linked to the role again, much to the delight of his former teammates.
Barcelona lost two points at home to Granada on Monday night, the nature of the 1-1 draw pushing Koeman closer to the Camp Nou exit gate.
The club are in the midst of a financial crisis with their greatest player of all time, Lionel Messi, leaving for a free transfer to PSG.
And things only got worse on Monday, as one of his replacements, Luuk de Jong, missed an easy chance with a header. Things got so desperate that Koeman pushed Gerard Pique to play up front.
Reports are now emerging that Barcelona’s board are waiting to sign a replacement before sacking Koeman, with one of their all-time greats, Xavi, on the shortlist.
The midfielder’s metronome was one of the key men in creating Barca and Spain’s period of domination from 2008-2014, and has long been linked with a return to club management since his retirement in 2015.
The 41-year-old has so far resisted the club’s advances, staying in Qatar with Al Sadd whom he has managed since 2019.
However, there are a number of Barcelona greats desperate for Xavi to return and manage the squad, as the 2018 documentary revealed. Take the ball, pass the ball.
Dani Alves, the most decorated player in football history with 43 trophies, had a great car analogy for what Xavi’s return would mean.
“It’s kind of like the best cars,” said the right-back. “[Johan] Cruyff was the first large model, the Mark 1, and Pep [Guardiola] is mark 2.
“But I think Xavi will be in the same league when he comes back as a coach. When he comes back he will be the Mark 3.
Messi agreed with his former team-mate, saying: “I have no doubt that he will return as a coach one day.
“He deserves his chance because of the type of player he was here. He will make an incredible manager.
“As a player he saw the whole picture from the pitch, I’m sure from the sidelines he will see it even more clearly.”
Xavi has won five trophies in Qatar so far, with clips of his Al Sadd side reproducing Barca’s Tiki-taka style often going viral.
He has since been joined in the Middle East by Santi Cazorla and Andre Ayew as they aim for another title.
Sergio Busquets has formed a legendary midfield trio with Xavi and Andres Iniesta, together winning five league titles, three Champions Leagues and a World Cup and believes Xavi is the right man for the job.
Barcelona manager’s next odds
* Odds according to Paddy Power
5/2, Roberto Martinez
10/3, Xavi Hernandes
5/1, Andrea Pirlo
5/1, Antonio Conté
9/1, Torrent Domenec
9/1, Erik ten Hag
9/1, Mikel Arteta
“He will come back someday, I don’t know when but he wants to come back and he has the same football philosophy as Pep,” said Busquets.
Former Barca and Spain teammate Victor Valdes agreed, adding: “Barca’s future must be in the hands of someone with Xavi’s talent and vision.”
Take the Ball, Pass the Ball focused on Cruyff passing his philosophy on to Guardiola, who passed it on to Xavi.
Cruyff’s son Jordi, who is now a sports advisor at Barcelona, has spoken of his father’s admiration for Xavi.
“In my dad’s mind, he’s always been the smart of the class, the smart guy,” Jordi Cruyff said.
“The only problem will be that when everyone’s already blowing it up, then the pressure is too high.
“But if he goes his way bit by bit, like Pep did, then you’re ready for it.” And I hope one day Xavi will.
Koeman received a lot of criticism in Monday’s 1-1 draw, with his introduction of unpleasant long ball tactics for many club supporters.
Xavi said of Barca’s style during the documentary: “We believe in this philosophy, which is improved every year and by every Barca manager.
“But the day things start to go wrong, and let’s hope it won’t be for 200 years, but if it does, we should never consider changing our style of play.
“Our unique philosophy should never change. Never.”
Unfortunately for Xavi he already has, the question now is whether he can be the man to save him.
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