Durban - The announcement of Xavi as the new Barcelona manager has given the Blaugrana something to celebrate for a change. The Camp Nou-based side are arguably at their worst point in modern history, created through years of financial mismanagement behind the scenes.
The return of Xavi as a manager was the first major move made by Joan Laporte in his second stint as club president. Xavi will be tasked to rebuild Barca to its former glory but it will be a slow process. It is also a gamble for both the club and the manager.
While Xavi’s genius as a footballer was well documented, top footballers generally do not make good managers, though there are exceptions to this rule. The reason for this is that things come so naturally to generational great footballers that they don’t really think about what they do. When the time comes to teach others, it can be difficult to do and they may also find it difficult to relate to their less gifted counterparts.
On the other hand, average athletes have to think longer and harder to find ways of being competitive. This makes them better analysts and when the time comes to pass their knowledge down to others, it is easier for them.
Prior to the 41-year-old Xavi becoming Barcelona boss, he had managed only Al Sadd, the Qatari club where he retired as a footballer. While Xavi achieved decent success as a manager in Qatar, the Qatari league is nowhere near the high intensity of the La Liga. This will be a new ball game for him.
Barcelona’s appointment of Xavi continues the trend of clubs appointing club legends to return them to their former glory.
Recent examples of this included Chelsea appointing Frank Lampard and Juventus appointing Andrea Pirlo. It does not always go well as Lampard and Pirlo ended their stints with their respective clubs on bad terms.
Barcelona fans can at least take some confidence from the fact that Laporta previously took a gamble which yielded the club one of their greatest ever teams in history. In 2008, Laporta entrusted the inexperienced Pep Guardiola as the club’s manager.
Barcelona was actually the first senior professional club that Guardiola managed. After leading Barca to four La Liga titles he has become a perennial league title winner, in Germany with Bayern Munich and in England with Manchester City.
To expect Xavi to achieve the same results as Guardiola at least in the near term is ridiculous. Guardiola inherited a world-class group of players while Xavi has inherited easily the least gifted Barcelona first-team unit in modern history.
Barcelona must brace themselves for some uneasy roads ahead while also retaining faith in Xavi. His first mandate for the rest of the current season should not be to win trophies or start playing world-class football immediately but to regain their pride, finesse and fighting spirit.