Xavi refuses to rule out Barça return, but ‘right now they don’t need me’

FC Barcelona boss Xavi Hernández sat down in front of the press ahead of the LaLiga game against Osasuna. The coach announced last week, immediately following the 3-5 loss to Villarreal, that he would be stepping down as manager of the side at the end of the season.

In his first press appearance since that decision was made public, Xavi spoke about unity, saying that it was needed “more than ever”. The moment of the announcement was a curious one: with the season at risk of sailing into nothingness, Xavi’s choice to make the choice to go public may either see his players fight like never before until the end, or down tools and think that there is nothing to play for. The coach, however, wants to finish the season “in the best way possible”.

Xavi says that the choice to go “was taken a long time ago” and that “our work has not been valued; that’s why I’m leaving”. The decision, it seems, fundamentally, was a sad one.

Barça pressure ‘generates a fatigue that makes it not worth it’

Is this a dig at Laporta? At Deco? At the fans? At the press? Well, a manager certainly doesn’t leave a job because he or she is getting a hard time from the latter two. When probed on exactly who does not value Xavi’s work, he replied that it was “in general”.

“You see that whatever you do”, he added, “whatever you say, it’s not valued. It’s not that I can’t handle the pressure, quite the opposite, but the work done coming from one of the most difficult situations in the club’s history is never going to be valued”.

The league, Xavi admits, is a tough task. “We are eleven points behind” is a reality and a sentence that implies the admission of catching up is all but over – maybe against one team, the argument could be made, but not two.

There is, however, a potential aspect of his decision that could indeed benefit the side in the Champions League. If we take the glass-half-full scenario and say that Xavi’s decision will energise and revitalise the squad, turning them into a team that will die for him until he leaves, then “the Champions League excites us” takes on a new meaning. “But I have the feeling that whatever we do won’t be valued. And that generates a fatigue that makes it not worth it.”

‘We have a problem in terms of the demands at this club’

Xavi said during his announcement that being Barcelona manager was “cruel” and “unpleasant”, strong words for a person at the helm of the club of his life. Meeting your heroes is one thing, but being them for others sounds just as unpleasant. “That’s how I feel it”, he said when asked to clarify, “they make you feel like you’re not worth it on a day-to-day basis. Pep [Guardiola] told me that, I watched Luis Enrique suffer, the same with [Ernesto] Valverde. We have a problem in terms of the demands at this club. It’s not enjoyable. It seems like you life depends on it in every moment. That’s why I say it’s cruel. That is why I feel this way.”

As regards the team news against Osasuna – yes, they have a game to play – Xavi said that “Andreas [Christensen] is working extremely hard because he has a lot of pain and he’s really trying. We are trying to manage the pain. He will be available against Osasuna but the idea is for him to participate less. Marc-André [Ter Stegen] could be back for Granada. Inigo [Martínez] will be ready for the next game.” João Félix is also injured although this came after the press conference.

Xavi returned time and time again to the feeling of being valued, as well as almost ending up sounding like Gary Barlow. “When I say that we’re a work in progress, you [all] kill me. When I say that we’re not the same Barcelona as in 2010, there is also criticism. I have the feeling that whatever I do, whatever I say, it’s not enough.”

‘I will not rule out being Barcelona manager in the future’

“I have the feeling that nothing is going to be accepted. Not winning a league with 14 points to second place, nor putting in a historic performance in a Super Cup final. But it’s not an aspect of narrative because I’ve told it and it’s not been bought. I generated this… so I have to leave.”

As for whether or not he’d come back in the future, Xavi said that “I will not rule out being Barcelona manager in the future. Barça will have me for whatever they need and now they don’t need me. That’s why I took the decision to leave at the start of the season. But I don’t rule it out at all.”

The next coach has big shoes to fill and a lot of pressure to step into. “My advice”, Xavi said, “is to be natural and not let themselves become influenced. That’s how I did it. My excitement was about coaching Barcelona, winning and playing well. And it happened. I’m very proud. I believed until the end in my philosophy. My advice would be to enjoy it, but that’s impossible.”

Why did you choose to make your decision public now? came the question: “Because we need a reaction”, Xavi said simply. Osasuna, it seems, is the first step forwards for the players, fans and media to show that reaction. Barcelona play Osasuna at Montjuïc in LaLiga EA Sports, and kicks off on January 31 at 1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT.


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