go Xavi after him
Laforte made his wishes come true, the backup players were captivated by his charms and the fans are fans.
After a promising half season and a perfect summer, Xavi faces some difficult challenges in an attempt to return the championship to Barcelona
Friday, August 12, 2022, 4:00 p.m
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At the beginning of June, the sports newspapers in Catalonia published Xavi's "wish list".
Eight players the Barcelona coach asked to add during the summer to challenge Real Madrid and bring the championship plate back to the Camp Nou for the first time since 2019. Just over two months have passed, and the wishes have been almost fully fulfilled.
Jules Conde, Rafinha and Robert Lewandowski were acquired for a total of over 150 million euros, Andreas Christensen and Frank Cassier arrived as free agents and Bernardo Silva and Marcos Alonso have also agreed and are supposed to join.
Only Cesar Azpilicueta prevented 100 percent success when he decided to extend his contract at Chelsea, but Barca continue to look for another right-back.
President Juan Laporte went out of his way to give Xavi everything he wanted.
With the help of his deputy Rafael Josta and the sports management of Matteo Allman and Jordi Cruyff, Laporte carried out an almost perfect summer in regards to the purchasing policy (absurd during such an acute economic crisis), including financial maneuvers that change the image of Barcelona and may also harm it in the future.
Everything to achieve success - here and now.
The coach got everything, and even more.
After a first half season in which he already had time to leave a mark and return Barcelona to its Cruyff style (with brains), Xavi is now supposed to take the next step on the way to becoming Pep Guardiola.
Barcelona coach Xavi (Photo: GettyImages, PAU BARRENA)
On November 20, Xavi made his debut as a Barcelona coach, in the home derby against Espanyol.
He had to start then with Memphis Depay on the edge and Elias Ahomash on his sides and Gabi who was placed in a forward position than usual.
His attacking replacement was another boy from La Masia, Az Abde.
A meager supply, bordering on the impossible.
He already finished the season with a lethal attacking trio that included Ousmane Dembele who returned from injury and the reinforcement players Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Fran Torres.
That trio provided plenty of goals and Barcelona moved from seventh to second, but Xavi wanted more.
At the end of last season he spoke with Erling Holland in an attempt to convince him to join.
The move didn't work out, so he switched to the Lewandowski option.
Barcelona landed the top scorer of the Bundesliga, one of the most outstanding scorers in world football in the last decade.
A safe stock.
Rafinha was bought from Leeds to strengthen the wings and together with the return to fitness of Anso Fati, Barcelona now have six quality attacking tools (and even seven, if Memphis Depay does stay).
The Blaugrana have had magnificent trios in the past, but have never built a team with such a rich attacking selection.
All of them are diverse in their style, all of them except Lewandowski can man at least two different positions in the attack, and Xavi can also change formations or adapt to the opposition.
A luxury that no Barcelona coach has had in the past and a significant advantage, certainly in a grueling World Cup season, over Real Madrid which is completely dependent on Karim Benzema.
And who remembers the debts of over one billion euros?
Joan Laporte introduces Robert Lewandowski (Photo: Reuters)
Xavi played a key part in Barcelona's successful window.
His list of requests was filled as mentioned, but he also worked vigorously to make it happen.
He met with Lewandowski in a restaurant in Ibiza and held professional talks to explain to him how he would benefit from the wing players and be able to score in bunches in Spain as well.
The defender Conde was already supposed to move from Sevilla to Chelsea, but then Xavi entered the picture.
"We had a good, flowing conversation, which is always a good sign," the French revealed after signing with Barcelona, who wanted him back in Ronald Koeman's days, but then the coach was unable to convince the management to invest the required amount.
"Xavi told me that I was perfect for his method and we talked a lot about football - me and one of the greatest players ever."
The coach himself was asked about his involvement in procurement issues and explained: "This is me, this is my way. When I do something, I give 100 percent. Otherwise I would have stayed at home. I wanted them to come, to understand that they can enjoy themselves here. The goal is to make them feel important and explain to them my game plan. But the Barça brand helps, it magnetizes players. It's a big, world-class, historic club. A direct connection contributes, but first of all it's the name of Barça."
The conversation made the difference.
Jules Conde (Photo: GettyImages, Alex Caparros)
In his first six months in office, Xavi managed to reconnect the crowd to the team and return to the basics.
Since his appointment, Barcelona has obtained 56 points in 26 games (only three less than Real Madrid) and in 2022 alone even overtook the champion with 45 points.
The mighty 0:4 in the Clasico in Barcelona also restored respect and raised the bar of expectations, which of course is skyrocketing now in light of the acquisition campaign.
86 thousand spectators were at Camp Nou in the Gamper Cup against Pumas last week, they got a taste of the future in the 0:6 performance.
It was a continuation of the good moments from the end of the previous season.
Barcelona have developed a distinct style in a short time under Xavi and have become the one that holds the ball more than any other team, presses the highest and threatens the goal the most.
Pedri and Gabi continued to progress, but Dembele was the epitome of that dramatic turning point, becoming the league's goalscoring king and the weapon they expected him to be when they bought him from Dortmund in the summer of 2017 for €105 million.
He earned a new contract (with a particularly rewarding clause) and Xavi hopes he has earned one of the best wingers in the world.
The question is whether he will be able to keep him focused even when there is so much competition for a place in the lineup.
How do you get him closer to retirement without damaging the locker room?
Xavi with Gerard Pique (Photo: GettyImages, Quality Sport Images)
In general, it will be a challenging task - to find the right front trio among the many options.
As mentioned, Xavi has quite a few options in attack and also enough brakes to maneuver more with formations like 3-4-3 or 3-5-2, which he liked to use in Qatar.
Last season, without the proper tools, he dared to play like that in the league only against Osasuna, on a day when Jordi Elba was absent due to injury and basically there weren't too many choices.
This season it will happen much more, and by choice.
Another challenge will be moving the veterans.
It has already been made clear to Gerard Pique that he is not the team player after 14 years nor the first backup to the brakes, but he is determined to fight for his place and even agreed to another cut in his salary to help the club.
The coach will have to know how to get him closer to retirement without hurting the locker room.
Sergio Busquets, who flourished alongside Xavi as a player, looked great under him last season and showed that his strength is still in his loins, but bringing in Xavier is another step in preparation for the day after.
Alba will also have increased competition and the coach will have a difficult test against the trio he cooperated with on the field, which he needs to keep a unified dressing room until the end of the season.
This may be the key to regaining hegemony.
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