Barcelona have turned to Xavi Hernandez for overseeing one of the direst transitional phases in their history.
Wasteful transfer expenditures, piling debts, suffering humiliating defeats in Europe, and losing the talismanic Lionel Messi; things have been far less than ideal in recent times for the Blaugrana faithful.
Can Xavi be the saviour they are hoping him to be?
Ronald Koeman, also a former Barcelona legend, failed to get a grip on the team throughout his tenure, and the situation continuously declined under his watch.
The Dutchman could not implement a free-flowing style, which has been the distinguishing feature for Barcelona teams and chose to go for a more direct approach instead.
Unfortunately for him, things did not turn out per his plan.
Xavi needs to fix midfield
As a player, Xavi is one of the best football has ever seen.
He was a midfield maestro who led Barcelona and Spain to the most prestigious trophies.
Playing as a deep-lying playmaker, the Euro 2008 Player of the Tournament was the nucleus of the dominating midfield in those all-conquering Barcelona and Spain teams.
On paper, therefore, Xavi appears to be a perfect appointment to sort out the disjointed Barcelona midfield.
The Catalan side has problems across all areas in the pitch, but undoubtedly, it’s the centre of the field where they seemed more lacklustre.
Barcelona have some exciting young midfield talents in Pedri, Frankie de Jong, Riqui Puig, Gavi, and Nico Gonzalez.
Pedri had an excellent Euro 2020 campaign with Spain while De Jong was a key member of Eric Tan Hag’s Ajax team that reached the Champion’s League semifinals in 2019.
De Jong is also a regular in the Netherlands national team.
Xavi will also reunite with his former teammate Sergio Busquets, who is the most senior presence in the Barca midfield right now.
The 33-year-old is still performing consistently for Spain but is struggling to replicate his national team form at the club level.
Xavi’s primary challenge would be to restore harmony in the Barca mid so that Barcelona can get back to the possession-based play that has earned them so much success in the past.
The Al Sadd experience
It’s natural to question whether or not Xavi was the right appointment for the Barcelona job, given his coaching credentials.
The 41-year-old has only managed Qatari side Al Sadd in his managerial career.
Even though he was extra-ordinarily successful at Al Sadd, you don’t need to be a football expert to realize that the La Liga is a monumental leap from the Qatar Stars League.
That said, Xavi’s coaching philosophy at Al Sadd did resonate with the Barcelona ethos.
His team enjoyed high possession, was great at transitions and was quick to win the ball back when they lost it.
The Dani Alves factor
Dani Alves is a footballer Xavi respects the most.
Beyond his footballing skills, Dani Alves is also a leader and has a winning mentality – qualities which Xavi wants his Barca squad to imbibe.
The right-back has hopes of being with Brazil at next year’s World Cup finals in Qatar which means that he will need to keep himself in shape and remain competitive to boost his chances of Tite calling him up.
Alves’ arrival also increases competition in the right-back position which has been one of the team’s weak spots.
Sergiño Dest has been inconsistent and neither Óscar Mingueza nor Sergi Roberto have looked convinced when playing in the role.
Of course, it would not be easy to reapply this formula in a more competitive league, but Xavi has shown that he holds the fundamentals of the Cruyff school of thought close to his heart.
It’s no secret that Barcelona don’t have a perfect team at the moment to execute Xavi’s vision of one touch football.
They need to be patient and lay out a proper plan to redeem their status as a European powerhouse