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The clock is ticking for Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez. His dream job at the Camp Nou is quickly turning into a nightmare amid poor results, dressing room unrest, and growing fan discontent.
Xavi’s current plight has all the hallmarks of a manager on the brink:
- Sporting director Jordi Cruyff seems open to bringing in a new coach rather than sticking with his inherited choice.
- President Joan Laporta is trying too hard to present a united front, making repeated appearances to rally the players.
- Key dressing room figures including Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba are reportedly unhappy with Xavi’s methods.
- The players Xavi wanted to build around like Ousmane Dembele and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were allowed to leave last summer. Now he has to mould a squad including new signings he didn’t request.
- There’s no money for January reinforcements despite glaring needs in midfield and attack.
- And Barcelona face a daunting Copa del Rey trip to giant-killers Unionistas de Salamanca on Thursday. A slip-up against the third division minnows could spell the end for Xavi.
“I think we are a lot closer to success than failure,” Xavi claimed defiantly in his pre-match press conference, citing last season’s domestic cup win and 2021/22’s top four finish after he arrived mid-campaign.
He portrayed the fans he meets as staunchly supportive, but crowds at the Camp Nou tell another story – barely 35,000 now show up in a stadium built for 99,000.
Last season, Barcelona ground out 10 1-0 victories to claim the La Liga title. But this season Xavi promised more attractive football, and it simply hasn’t materialized. Worse, core players like Ronald Araujo, Jules Kouande and Frenkie de Jong have regressed alarmingly.
New signings like Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha haven’t matched expectations either, leading many to blame Xavi’s methods.
Injuries have cruelly robbed Xavi of difference-makers like Gavi and Marc-Andre ter Stegen. He also rues having to let creative forces like Dembele and Aubameyang move on.
Similarly, club president Laporta strong-armed Xavi into accepting Joao Felix on loan despite misgivings – all because super-agent Jorge Mendes made the Portuguese wonderkid’s arrival a condition of signing desperately needed right-back Joao Cancelo.
Yet all managers must make do with less than ideal circumstances and budgets. Xavi has so far failed to prove he can maximize resources like overachieving Girona boss Michel, whose shoestring squad tops La Liga.
Another dreaded Laporta pep talk epitomizes Xavi’s plight – if he truly inspired the players, the president wouldn’t need to repeatedly intervene.
Xavi still has 18 months left on his contract after being handed a new deal by Laporta last year. While he won’t walk away from his dream job, Xavi has hinted he won’t cling on if Barca want change.
With club legend and B team coach Rafa Marquez waiting in the wings, he may get his wish sooner rather than later. Marquez is close to director of football Jordi Cruyff and represented by super-agent Mendes, whose influence has grown exponentially at the cash-strapped club.
First, Barcelona must navigate a tricky Copa del Rey trip to giant-killing Unionistas de Salamanca. With injuries ruling out Gavi, Ter Stegen and Raphinha, and key men like Pedri being preserved, Barca will field a shadow XI.
Anything less than victory against third tier opposition would likely signal the end for Xavi. Even scraping through may only grant him a temporary reprieve – for a club legend who won every trophy as a player, his first senior coaching job is quickly turning sour.