Arthur Melo was meant to be Barca’s ‘new Xavi’ so what has changed?

The news that Arthur Melo is likely to be swapping the Camp Nou for Juventus stadium at the end of the 2019/20 campaign appears to be a real head scratcher on the face of it.

The player can’t be blamed because his stance has always been the same. Many times he’s expressed a desire to stay at Barcelona, and the only reason he could’ve reversed it is because the club have made it clear he’s for sale.

So, you have to ask what’s changed, given he was once touted as the ‘new Xavi.’ Continue reading

Barcelona need to re focus for next season and Messi and Xaxi could be key to that

Whilst Barcelona are top of the league standings for now and are still in the Champions League any fan who watches them will tell you that they are not having their usual dominant season. They simply don’t look like the Barcelona side that have graced their league and European football for the past decade.

They have had some injuries in Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann has taken time to fit in and doesn’t have consistently good games. Lionel Messi is getting older but he is still a fantastic player, but there is a feeling that he needs to be re motivated. New coach Quique Setien seems like a good man but one really has to question if he is the right person to take Barcelona forward.

Setien’s appointment came after a panic decision led by the board and Eric Abidal to sack Ernesto Valverde, who the players really liked. Everything felt hurried in their decision and the severance got messy so to speak. So bad that Messi himself spoke out about his feelings that Valverde should never have been sacked.

Bringing in Setien always felt like the wrong decision especially when news broke that Barca and Abidal had chased after ex player Xavi to be the new coach. Xavi was loyal to his Chinese team though and rejected the offer for now. Come August and the next season and it is thought that Xavi will be available and will be Barca’s new coach.

Appointing Xavi would make sense, his blood runs the colours of the club, he is respected by his peers and the fans love him. This could work, but of course he will judged on results only. Messi could well improve, even though he is actually having a decent season maybe it has lacked some spark from the high bar that he has set himself.

Next season has to be about focusing for the club. When the Suarez injury hit and the club looked for last minute deals, it made no sense. They wanted to pay big money to Everton to secure Richarlison, Everton quite rightly in January said no. And they simply went window shopping again, with not much care or focus. The truth is Barcelona didn’t want or need Richarlison, and they ended up going for Martin Braithwaite, a decent player but journeyman who simply will not fit into the team.

This was a basic blunder by the club and not to undermine Braithwaite’s skills, but players brought into any club must have a desired role so they can play and fit into the team like a jigsaw. Braithwaite through no fault of his own has been plucked out and expected to be the difference within the team. Instead his biggest highlight might be just sharing a dressing room with Messi. This all comes down to Barcelona panicking.

Bringing in Xavi next season there will be the hope that the team can re focus, he understands the club and was part of the team that was hailed as the best club side in history in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

Barcelona still have the magic, still have their integrity, but in football life moves fast. Wit La Liga possibly being suspended this year over the virus it gives the club time to assess the situation, the question is will they make the right choices or continue to panic?

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Barcelona sack Ernesto Valverde but the situation turns into a farce

Barcelona have sacked coach Ernesto Valverde but the handling of the affair ended up turning into a farce. Instead of the club making a professional decision the story ran out of control when former player Xavi rejected taking the job.

The Catalan giants ended up exposing themselves early, Valverde knew he was out of a job as the Barca board scrambled to appoint someone after the club were beaten 3-2 by Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup semi-finals out in Saudi Arabia. The timing though seems off. It is ended with Barcelona fans having a Valverde for a domestic league game, only to see him and the team go halfway around the world to play in the Super Cup and the team coming back with Valverde gone and a new manager in place.

But why now? Why did Barcelona make this decision? Valverde after all becomes the first Barcelona coach in 17 years sacked mid way through the season. The last was Louis van Gaal. It has been reported that Barcelona panicked when they witnessed the Atletico game. The club were 2-1 up with 10 minutes to go and lost 3-2. It reminded them of the Champions League collapses against Roma and Liverpool when the club spurned a 3 goal lead, each time with Valverde in charge.

It’s odd in a way that the club have finally said goodbye to him given that they are top of the league in Spain and qualified for the knock out stages of the Champions League. If they were going to sack him surely it would have come days after going out of the Champions League in embarrassing fashion to Liverpool, or at the end of last season, but he was liked by the board, well until now.

So who will be replacing him? It should have been Xavi and that would have been the natural decision. But the former Barca great actually did the most decent thing and declined to leave his current managerial position at Al Sadd during their season. It was reported he could take over in the summer but Barca wanted someone now. That someone is Quique Setien.

Setien’s last job was coach of Real Betis where he recorded some great results including beating Barcelona. He has long been an admirer of the clubs playing philosophy and could be the perfect replacement, only time will tell on that, but he has never had a win rate above 50%, at the same time he has never coached one of the elite teams and at 61 his dream has finally come true.

As for Valverde, well once you have managed Barcelona it is like winning an Oscar and he will be high demand, with no problems to find another job, although he will more than likely take the next 6 months off. The one shame is the way Barcelona handled it all for a man who probably should have gone this summer. Having said that one could question if he has been a failure for Barcelona? Sure their performances collapsed in the Champions League but Barcelona won 2 league titles under him and two cups. Week in week out they did a job on Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid to win La Liga.

Former Barcelona great Andres Iniesta called the handling of Valverde’s sacking ‘a bit ugly’, and he was right to say that. It’s interesting how loyal figures at the club are usually shown the back door or the handling for their exits is not done let’s say with the best of etiquette in mind. But what is done is done and Setien will be thrown in at the deep end, his dream has finally arrived and he will be hoping that it isn’t a nightmare.

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Could Xavi become a future Barcelona manager?

Spanish midfielder Xavi Hernandez is currently playing for Qatari side Al Sadd, but the veteran playmaker recently admitted plans to become a coach when he hangs up his boots. A long-serving Barcelona player who was perfectly engrained in the La Masia academy, Xavi has been talked up as a future Barcelona manager, with the likes of former stars Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique having enjoyed success at the helm, but could Xavi emulate his ex-teammates?

“I like the pitch, being close to the football, what happens in the game itself. I’m going to learn the trade, I’ve already started my education here at the Aspire Academy. I’m following Spanish football while I’m still playing, and I’m really enjoying myself. After that, I don’t know what the future will hold for me, but of course I’d love to return to Barça one day. That’s my aim and the closer it is to the pitch, the better,” he said when asked about his plans after his playing career comes to an end.

Guardiola and Enrique were talented midfielders during their playing days, and both fully understanding of the club’s culture. Xavi is exactly the same in that regard, and is a player highly respected by legends past and present for all he’s achieved in the game for club and country. Few people will ever go on to emulate his trophy haul, nor can they match his tactical knowledge of the game. Xavi certainly won’t rush his return to Barcelona in a managing capacity, but supporters are backing him to be at the helm in the future.

The 35-year-old has fantastic awareness of what’s around him on the pitch, and such tactical nous can translate into coaching. Xavi has played under some of the best players of all-time during his 24-year spell at the club, and has picked up a lot of techniques from the vast amount of experienced coaches he’s played under too. The life of a Barcelona manager has never been more than a few years in the modern day, and Enrique’s toils this season could see the vacancy opening up.

While far too soon to be taking on the role, Xavi may well consider a return to the Nou Camp in a coaching or assistant role, as Zinedine Zidane did under Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid in the past. What better player to learn from than one of the greatest playmakers the game has ever seen in Xavi. Could he be Barcelona manager in the future?

Xavi bows out of Barcelona as most decorated player in Spanish history

Barcelona midfielder Xavi’s last game for the club saw him winning the Champions League final against Juventus at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium. Let alone the victory sealing an incredible treble (La Liga, Copa Del Rey, Champions League), it was the fourth European cup triumph in his career with the Catalan giants, and cemented himself as the most decorated player in the history of Spanish football.

The 35-year-old was the quintessential one-club man, perfectly engrained in Barcelona’s philosophy, and playing a pivotal role in their trophy success down the years. He’s leaving to join Qatari side Al Sadd this summer, and leaves behind a legacy in Spain that is unlikely to be matched. Considered to be one of the best passers the game has ever seen, the Spanish international exits the Nou Camp with eight league titles, six Supercopa de Espanas, four Champions Leagues, three Copa Del Reys, two UEFA Super Cups, and two FIFA World Club Cups – taking his tally of trophies to 25.

Xavi has also dominated international football, winning the European Championships (2008 & 2012), and FIFA World Cup (2010), while having been awarded a spate of personal honours down the years. A regular name in the Team of the Year awards, while having won a Bronze in the Ballon d’Or, Xavi was deemed the best of the best. A deep-lying playmaker, proficient at ball retention, his job on the pitch sounds simple enough, but the veterans outstanding creativity and consistent set him apart from the rest.

Few players could make as many passes per game as Xavi did, nor would so many find their target. The Spaniard often is compared to the likes of Andrea Pirlo (Italy & Juventus) and former player Paul Scholes (England & Man Utd), but is held in higher esteem due to hi s unwavering quality in some of the best seasonal squads football has ever seen.

Despite dictating the middle of the park in the majority of games played, Xavi perhaps didn’t score or create as many goals as a player of his ability should. His tactical discipline meant he would avoid giving away possession with high-risk passes, and instead would leave such attacking duties to the forwards in the team. Because of this, Xavi has become a legend when talking about the best players providing ball retention, and the ones who player who most epitomised the Spanish & Barcelona way of football. He’s the most decorated player in Spanish history, and what a way to make his time with Barcelona than to win the treble.

Why is Xavi being allowed to move to Qatar?

Various reports are suggesting long-serving Barcelona midfielder Xavi is close to signing for Al Sadd in the summer. Xavi, 35, looks set to end a 24-year association with the Spanish club, but why is he being allowed to move to the Qatari club?

“(Al Sadd) confirms the latest news about the club’s interest in signing the Spanish star Xavi Hernandez is still under negotiation. On the matter, the FC Barcelona player is currently in Doha with his family to know more about the country he would live in if he were to decide to join the club. The club would make further official announcements only if further developments take place,” said a club statement.

Such a deal appears close to taking place, but a player who has been among the best in his position for close to a decade shouldn’t be allowed to leave Europe. There are many clubs who would want Xavi, and he won’t have been without interest from the best sides in the world.

German Bundesliga holders and current leaders Bayern Munich signed 33-year-old Xabi Alonso from Real Madrid – who plays a similar role as Xavi, and manager Pep Guardiola – a former Barcelona player, manager, and teammate of Xavi – would certainly consider renewing acquaintances with such a brilliant club servant. Juventus have managed to get the best form from 35-years-old Andrea Pirlo, so they could be another side interested.

His importance for Barcelona has dwindled, however, and that has led to him losing his place in the side to summer signing Ivan Rakitic. Despite that, Xavi still has plenty to offer a side willing to play to his strengths. Xavi’s CV trumps that of most existing players, but the Catalans are happy to let him go.

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said: “Xavi has earned the right to decide (his) future. He has a contract until the end of the next (season). If he believes he must finish earlier, (he will) have the full support of the board.”

The former Spanish international has reportedly been taking a tour of the club to see their facilities, and Al Sadd are currently second in the table in their domestic league. He’s made 750 appearances for Barcelona, and has helped transform the way football has been played in Spain. Few players will ever match his achievements in football, so Al Sadd are very fortunate to have a player of his quality and fame close to joining the club.

Xavi does turn 36 next January, however, he still has a couple more years of service in his position, yet he has been allowed to join Al Sadd rather than a more presitigious European outfit?