Xavi's 'impossible job' is over
Xavi Fernández signed a new contract at FC Barcelona in good faith but the job is beyond him. It will be a relief to step aside and hand over the dilemmas
Friday, 2 February 2024, 19:24
Friday, 2 February 2024, 19:24
Xavi Fernández was bang on when he described the hot seat at FC Barcelona as "the impossible job".
It was part of his explanation for announcing he'd leave the position when the season is over and reflects the sentiments of every man who has tried to drive the juggernaut. He cited Pep Guardiola, Luis Enrique and Ernesto Valverde who all succumbed to the pressure.
I can agree - having spent just one day shadowing Bobby Robson when he was Barça coach.
The former Ipswich and England manager gazed out at the Camp Nou just before kick-off. "There's 90,000 in here tonight, almost the size of the town of Ipswich," he reflected. As he smiled, he added "And by 11pm tonight, they'll all be waving white handkerchiefs and calling for my head".
He was right. The team beat Extremadura 3-0 that night to go within two points of Real Madrid. He'd won the Spanish Super Cup, went on to win the Copa del Rey, European Cup Winners Cup, and was voted as European manager of the season. His crime was not being Johan Cruyff and eventually finishing second to Real.
At the post-game press conference, an ignorant journalist eating a ham and cheese bocadillo even questioned Bobby's signing of his "favourites". The players in question were Luis Figo and Ronaldo Nazario. Mister Robson just despaired!
Earlier in the day, I'd seen him reason with a player that he should take his mandatory siesta in his room rather than by the hotel swimming pool in his Speedos (name revealed in final paragraph).
We'd been followed to the stadium by a camera operator on the back of a scooter, so we filmed him filming us, and he'd read that his potential (eventual) successor Louis van Gaal was rumoured to be attending the game - this was just an average day for a Barça boss.
Guardiola summed it up this week when he said managing the Catalan club is a thousand times tougher than in England.
By the end of his time in LaLiga, Pep had developed a twitch - as if he was always squinting at the sun. He needed a year to recover. Xavi is bowing out early and it's understandable.
None of his predecessors experienced the difficulties he's facing. The dire financial situation restricts recruitment; he's now without nine, injured, senior players; he's been forced to call up teenagers to make up the team; and it appears that the sporting director isn't on his side. No wonder he's had enough!
His achievements in his first full season were remarkable. He won the league and organised a team of players on their last legs, alongside teenagers and those whose legs had been loaned for the season.
He signed a new contract in good faith but will be relieved to duck out early. The job is beyond him. The mitigating circumstances are listed above - yet, he has also made mistakes. His tactics have been inflexible; his team selection has been unbalanced; and some of his in-game changes have been questionable. He's developed the manager-under-pressure twitch early.
It will be a relief to step aside and hand over the multiple dilemmas. He can go have a lie down by the pool with his former team-mate and managerial predecessor Luis Enrique.
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