Xavi and Laporta will need to make smart decisions to turn around the current situation.
Barcelona is suffering perhaps its worst-ever crisis. Lionel Messi has left; there’s no cash to rebuild an ageing squad. Their rivals Real Madrid and Atletico are way ahead of them right now. The club is fighting for their place in Europe next season, and for the first time in 17 years, they will be playing in the Europa League. It has gone from bad to worse for Barca in recent years, but it’s not beyond repair. Xavi and Laporta will need to find solutions to improve both the sporting and financial situation of the club.
Barcelona is known for its unique style of play. From Johan Cruyff to Pep Guardiola, they revolutionized football and gained love and popularity from all over the world. Managers like Ernesto Valverde and Luis Enrique had their own identity which brought them success. Quique Setien and Ronald Koeman lacked a strong personality to implement their ideas upon the club and crumbled under pressure.
Barcelona announced Xavi as their manager in November, who is now tasked to guide Barcelona through a crisis. Years of mismanagement have led to financial troubles for Barca in recent years. The dressing room isn’t happy and looks lost whenever they fall behind. The club has lost its elite mentality, which they had during Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique period. After some ups and downs, Xavi has figured out that his players have psychological issues after suffering traumatizing defeats in the last couple of years in the UCL.
Xavi was a magician on the pitch, a game-changer, but reviving a club in such a poor state will take time and patience. The players, supporters, coaches need to prepare to suffer for now. Bringing the club back to its best will take years, and it will be a huge process. For example, look at Mikel Arteta, Arsenal haven’t played in UCL for the last 4-5 years and have finished eighth in the league twice in a row, but they are improving season by season. It took four years for Jurgen Klopp to win his first trophy at Liverpool and to become one of the best sides in the world. Barcelona has the right man for the job, someone who knows Cruyff’s or Guardiola’s principles along with his ideas and strong personality.
One of the biggest changes in the squad will be moving on from the old guard. Xavi will need to make tough calls and not be scared to drop the veterans. Gerard Pique might be playing in his last season at Barca; Sergio Busquets is the captain of Barca and has enough fuel in his tank to play couple more seasons; Jordi Alba is still the best full-back at the club and could give two more seasons to Barca. Xavi has already found his two replacements, with Nico and Ronald Araujo coming from the academy. Araujo played almost every other game last season and is currently Barca’s best player in defence. Nico has grown rapidly over the past few months, and it looks impossible to bench him after his recent performances.
Jordi Alba has been at the club for the last nine years and still has the pace and attacking prowess at the age of 33, but Barcelona will be looking for his replacement next season and have some options in their mind. Jose Gaya and Alex Grimaldo will be keen on a move to Barcelona as both of them will become free agents by the summer of 2023 if they do not renew contracts with their respective clubs. Sergi Roberto is still 29 years of age but has failed to impress in his unusual position. Sergiño Dest might be sold next summer after failing to impress Xavi. The name of Noussair Mazraoui of Ajax was discussed in the meeting between Laporta and Mino Raiola as a potential free transfer at the end of the season.
Free transfers and Barcelona in the same sentence would have been considered weird a few years ago, considering the way the previous Barcelona board liked to spend money without any hesitation. Cashing up to 400 million for three big players to replace the likes of Iniesta and Neymar started the downfall of the Blaugrana. Instead of improving the whole squad, the previous board looked for replacements for Xavi and Iniesta but failed to find another Samuel Eto’o. The defensive cracks have widened because of lower standards and passion from the defenders. Joan Laporta will be aiming to sell the deadwood and bring in players who want to fight for the pride of the club.
The Catalans already have young blood coming through the ranks, who offer hope amid the club’s financial crisis. With some experience and teaching lessons from Xavi himself, we will be seeing a very different squad in the upcoming years. A major rebuild needs time and patience, no matter how big the club is and for a big club for Barca, they will need the support and patience from their fans. What does the future hold for Barcelona remains to be seen?