The final hour before Xavi Hernandez’s Barcelona departure announcement amid tension and board meeting

Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez announced his departure on Saturday night to the surprise of players, the Barcelona board and the wider football world, but not to those closer to him. While he had not planned to make the decision public before the Villarrreal defeat, he felt the nature of it needed some way of releasing the tension.

There are varying versions of exactly when Xavi made the decision, but the consensus from multiple reports seems to be that he had been considering it before Christmas, and after their Supercup defeat to Real Madrid, his mind was made up. He had let his coaching staff and his close family know about his intentions, and had intended to make the decision public before their Champions League clash against Napoli on the 21st of February, potentially after their match with Granada on the 11th of February.

After their 5-3 defeat to Villarreal, Barcelona’s board held a tense board meeting to discuss Xavi’s future, with tempers flaring. Eventually it was decided that Xavi should stay in the post for the time being. Yet Cadena SER say Xavi was aware of this meeting, and seeing Alejandro Echevarria (Laporta’s brother in law and unofficial advisor), asked him to call a meeting with Laporta, Enric Masip, Rafa Yuste and Sporting Director Deco.

There Xavi explained his intentions in an emotional meeting in which Laporta tried to get him to reconsider, but accepted both Xavi’s decision, and Xavi’s petition to finish the season. Laporta had offered to hold his press conference with him, but Xavi, accompanied by brother and assistant Oscar Hernandez and wife Nuria Cunillera, wanted to do it himself. He did not want it to seem like he was sacked or that it was a mutual decision, rather that he walked alone. Some of the board found out about the decision via Whatsapp or on the radio in their cars home, having already left Camp Nou.

Part of the reason for his decision is that he and his staff have felt very isolated this season, without the support from the rest of the club. Others internally point to the signing of Oriol Romeu, a Xavi choice, claiming he had everyrhing they could give him. It’s worth remembering that two of his closest allies, ex-Sporting Director Jordi Cruyff and ex-Director of Football Mateu Alemany both left over the summer, being replaced by Deco.

Now the hunt for his successor begins. Deco and Laporta are facing a decision that will likely define their mandate for better or for worse. Xavi proved to be a good decision overall, winning La Liga last year in difficult circumstances, and changing the trajectory of the side. Upon trying to maintain that standard though, this season has thus far overwhelmed the Blaugrana coach.


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