Xavi Hernandez on ‘a mission’
Barcelona presented Xavi Hernandez as their new head coach in front of thousands of fans at the Camp Nou on Monday. The 41-year-old Barca great signed his contract, which runs until 2024, on the pitch alongside club president Joan Laporta.
“It’s a historical day for Barcelona. Welcome, Xavi,” an emotional Laporta told the supporters during the ceremony where the ex-midfielder was accompanied by his family. “Thank you all. I don’t want to get emotional but I am, I feel goosebumps,” Xavi told the fans.“This is the biggest club in the world and I’m going to work hard to reach your expectations. Barcelona can’t accept a draw or a defeat. We have to win all the games.”
Xavi joined after Barca paid his release clause with Qatari club Al-Sadd. He will replace the sacked Ronald Koeman. “I come prepared. My DNA didn’t change. We need to take charge, have the ball, create opportunities, be intense. We have a mission to rescue many things that were lost,” Xavi said.
Struggling Barca are ninth in LaLiga, 11 points adrift of leaders Real Sociedad and 10 behind arch-rivals Real Madrid.
After the presentation Xavi talked about how discipline will be a major factor in his project as Barcelona manager. “We have to start with new rules that are going to be strict. It’s not a matter of being tough, it’s about having norms,” he told reporters.
“When we had norms in the locker room things were good, when we didn’t, it went bad. So, we need to have order. Being professionals.
“It’s a medium to long-term project but we’ll need to work really hard to find the results. The expectation and the demand will be the highest. No excuses will be made or accepted.”
Xavi was officially introduced at a reception usually offered only to top players. Supporters chanted his name and waved club flags in the stands. “We need you,” Xavi told the fans. “Especially during the bad moments. We are in a difficult situation as a club. We need you more than ever.”
Xavi returns to a club mired in financial difficulties and finds a squad depleted by injuries and struggling with young players and untested new signings.
Ansu Fati and Eric Garcia are the latest players to be added to the club’s injury list, joining Sergio Aguero and Gerard Piqué among others.
Xavi faces a tough schedule, with his first match in charge being the league Derby against Espanyol on November 20 at Camp Nou. The club next hosts Benfica in a match that could decide its fate in the Champions League, a competition in which it hasn’t failed to advance past the group stage in nearly two decades.
Xavi will lead the squad in training for the first time on Tuesday, though most of the team’s top players will be on international duty.
Barcelona had been coached by interim manager Sergi Barjuan, who is now back with the club’s ‘B’ squad. In the three matches under his command, the team drew 1-1 with Alavés, won 1-0 at Dynamo Kyiv in the Champions League and drew 3-3 at Celta Vigo on Saturday after squandering a three-goal lead.
Xavi played for Barcelona until 2015, helping the club win 25 trophies, including four Champions Leagues and eight Spanish leagues in 17 seasons. He was also key to Spain’s run of titles when they won the World Cup in 2010 and the European Championships in 2008 and 2012.
Xavi turned down his first chance to coach Barcelona in January 2020 after Ernesto Valverde was fired in the middle of the season. He said he was not fully prepared at the time.