Xavi Hernández. / EFE

The Xavi era

The hope is that he will follow in the footsteps of Cruyff, Guardiola and Zidane. The fear is that he won't quite make the transition like Solskjaer, Lampard and Pirlo

ROB PALMER

Xavi Hernandez touches down. The Barcelona marketing department goes into overdrive, the President appears to be joined at the hip with new coach as he poses for countless photo opportunities and fans are pinning faith in the accomplished player becoming a great coach.

The hope is that he will follow in the footsteps of Johan Cruyff, Pep Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane. The fear is that he won't quite make the transition like Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo.

"I prefer to be in the Guardiola, Zidane group than the other one," joked the man with the biggest task in club football.

To be quite honest, nobody knows if he's capable of turning around a desperate situation. He can't do anything about the one-billion-euro club debt and he can't bring Lionel Messi back to the club. Those are the two biggest issues that can't be solved.

What is encouraging is the way he's attacked the matters he can impact. He's inherited 11 injured players. He doesn't have healing hands, but he's immediately changed the physio and physical trainer.

There are several senior players who are former teammates. How would they react to their pal now being the boss? Club captain Gerard Piqué, who has been outspoken at times, cancelled a planned television interview this week as there is a new discipline at the club.

Xavi is being authoritative from week one and installing new regulations for the players to adhere to. They must show up for training 90 minutes before, stay afterwards, and dine with teammates. Failure to adhere will result in hefty fines.

I remember one story from Pep Guardiola's first week as first-team coach. The players were told that training started at 11am on the dot. They duly arrived at the practise pitches five minutes early and chatted among themselves. As the second hand struck eleven, Guardiola surveyed his players and pointed to two of the most senior stars "You and you, both fined," the legend goes. "Why boss? We are here five minutes early," said one of the shocked pair.

"Yes, but at 11am you were finishing your conversation and not ready to listen," explained the new coach.

So, Piqué, Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto and Sergio Busquets better be on their toes. It's one the most often used tricks in management to make an example of a veteran player early into the tenure.

The way Xavi has handled himself, the confidence he exudes, the noises he's made... all suggest he can turn the situation around. Ronald Koeman looked like a beaten man and his team mirrored his demeanour.

It's a fresh start. He can't invest in new players, but he does have a full team to come back from the casualty ward. Many teenagers have been thrown in ahead of time and exceeded expectation. If they are drip-fed games and not depended upon to lead the club from the current predicament, he's inheriting some of the finest young talent in world football.

The excitement has returned to the Camp Nou; let the Xavi era begin.