Sunday, October 1

Xavi Hernández, Laporta’s desperate bet

The crisis of the team modifies the leader’s plan, who grabs onto Font’s electoral poster to lead the reconstruction

It was the most natural way out. And, at the same time, the most complex for Joan Laporta, who is forced to deny Xavi, the coach he has chosen to succeed Ronald Koeman, fired at dawn after falling in Vallecas. Although he always thought of the German road, as expensive as it was inaccessible (Nagelsmann, Tuchel, Film, Klopp…) the leader has finished resorting to the most affordable solution (the one from Terrassa would assume a low salary so as not to exceed the fair play of the League) and easier.

It was also the most natural because Xavi embodies Cruyffismo, the football philosophy with which the president most identifies. And it was, however, the most complex because Xavi had worked for years on the sports project of Víctor Font, the candidate defeated by Laporta, the same one who accused him in a long electoral campaign of lack of plan.

After the defeat in Vallecas, well into the morning, the president called the Al-Sadd coach for the first time to inform him that he was the chosen one, although now his departure from Doha must be negotiated, thus breaking his idea of ​​starting his career as coach at Barça, passing through the subsidiary before, as Guardiola did in 2007 before landing at the Camp Nou.

Xavi and Jordi Cruyff were, precisely, the flags chosen by Source to pilot the rebuilding of Barça. Now, almost eight months after the elections, both will coincide at the Camp Nou, but with Laporta as president. One as a new coach; another acting as director of international scouting.

The memory of Núñez, Cambra and Cruyff

The setting evokes the moment when Josep Lluís Núñez curiously snatched the figure of Johan cruyff to Sixto Chamber. Everything happened just after the Hesperia Mutiny (1988) in which the entire squad, sheltered by the then coach Luis Aragones, demanded the resignation of the leader, who in an unexpected turn opted for Cruyff, decapitalizing the opposition because it was the great electoral asset of Camera, who lost the elections a year later (1989).

With Xavi, Laporta has embarked on a similar path, with the change that has been after the elections in which he knocked down Font. Necessity has forced him to activate that route when the president defended that his preferred coach model was in Germany. Wanted to Nagelsmann, but Bayern paid 25 million euros to Leipzig to take it away.

For this reason, Laporta has had to go, and in a desperate way, to Font’s electoral poster after dispensing with Koeman at dawn, the technician who signed Bartomeu and who could not find a replacement last summer so he kept it, very much his regret.

What he postponed then has now exploded in his hands, forcing him to seek a solution that he had been delaying because he wanted a coach who carried his stamp, just as he did with Rijkaard (2003) and Guardiola (2008), very Laportian decisions, supported at the time by Cruyff, his spiritual guide, and Txiki Begiristain, then Barça’s technical secretary.

Now, the sports structure of the club is directed by Mateo Alemán, who acts as soccer director and Ramon Planes, technical secretary, who has already assumed that role with Bartholomew. After the dismissal of Koeman, he is the only executive who resists from the previous meeting.

The decline of the team

Laporta was confident that the Dutchman, whom he provisionally ratified after the defeat against Benfica, would hold out. But the decline of the team, ninth in the League, two consecutive defeats (Madrid and Rayo), which must win in Kiev on Tuesday to maintain the flame of hope in Europe, has pushed it to take that drastic measure (Xavi by Koeman), which was not part of its initial roadmap.

Outraged by the attitude of Barça in Vallecas and by the decisions that the Dutchman made, especially the change of Nico, who was the best player against Rayo, the leader activated the dismissal button that he already wanted (and did not do) in summer .

But Barça has entered into an endless decline so Laporta will put himself in the hands of Xavi, although he will not arrive at the Camp Nou with all the command in the sports area as the electoral program of Source.

In addition, the former Barça captain will have to carefully manage the dressing room where he will meet five former teammates: the four captains (Busquets, Piqué, Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba) and Ter Stegen. It would therefore be up to Xavi to lead his friends, who are leading the last years of his sports career.

With less power

The still coach of Al-Sadd from Doha (Qatar) was also running out of options to join Barça, albeit with a less extensive team of collaborators as he had designed with the candidate who lost at the polls against Laporta. Convinced, yes, that he will be able to meet with his entire team of assistants (up to 12 have worked in the Qatari capital) from next season.

The idea is that with Xavi Òscar Hernández, his brother, who works as second coach at Al-Sadd together with Sergio Alegre, who assumes the role of third coach, will arrive. He could also incorporate his scouting team into the Barça structure.

Until twice Xavi said no to Bartomeu. In January 2020, coinciding with the dismissal of Valverde. Then, the former president chose Setién. And then, in August 2020, when the leader dispensed with the Cantabrian, he also thought of Xavi. However, he met with the same refusal.

Seven titles with Al-Sadd

On the third call, the former Barça captain already has his suitcases ready to go home after spending six years in Qatar. He arrived in Doha in 2015 after winning the triplet with Barça de Luis Enrique. to finish his career as a footballer.

He spent four years playing for Al-Sadd until in May 2019 he left the field and sat on the Qatari bench, where he has won seven titles, the last one was the Emir’s Cup. In May, it had renewed until 2023, but leaving the door always open to leave Doha on the way to Barcelona.

The Barça club has yet to negotiate with Al Sadd the economic terms of that separation because in the last renewal the clause that agreed on a fixed price was abolished. Xavi He trusts that the leaders of the Qatari club will negotiate his departure quickly.

Xavi feels ready to lead Barça after having rejected that call twice. It is, however, Laporta’s first after they lived a few weeks apart, coinciding precisely with the electoral process. They were days of tension between the two, which have been softened with the intervention of Alejandro Echevarría, former manager and brother-in-law of the president.

It has been the bridge that both have used to rebuild a relationship that was excellent when they coincided in Laporta’s first term (2003-10). But it broke down years later because Xavi chose the Font route, with whom he worked on the construction of a solid sports project in which he assumed the figure of general sports manager as well as, of course, coach.

“Xavi must have a little more travel”

Laporta, February 2021

Those separate paths before and after the elections on March 7 ended up being reunited in recent weeks when Laporta, who lived with Koeman without feeling it his (he was never because he was signed by Bartomeu), understood, as some managers suggested and executives, that there was no other way out.

Related news

Was Xavi OR Xavi, everything else would have been an eccentric gamble for Laporta. And Xavi, now he did understand that he could not say no to Barça, to the club of his life. Two and a half years of apprenticeship in Doha, away from the media spotlight, he has been preparing to take a seat on the bench at the Camp Nou, providing, at the same time, a dose of essential calm to Laporta, who now begins his mandate at the level sports.

Last February, the president said: “Xavi must have a little more travel.” Eight months later, Xavi has already completed, according to Laporta, the route he needed to lead Barça.

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