FC Barcelona capped off a terrible week with a 3-1 defeat in El Clasico to rivals Real Madrid on Sunday. The result saw the Blaugrana surrender top spot in La Liga to Madrid, with manager Xavi having pressure mounting on his shoulders following the loss and an impending UEFA Champions League group stage exit.
Barcelona’s president Joan Laporta made it clear to Xavi and the squad that him and the Club’s directors expect an immediate reaction to their draw against Inter in the UCL last week, which essentially condemned the Catalans to the Europa League knockout stages.
The club activated numerous financial levers during the summer to fund the building of the current squad, which is meant to be ready to compete across all competitions from the get-go. Barcelona’s financial vice-president announced in the recent AGM that the club were aiming to reach the quarter-finals of the UCL at the very least.
However, following the imminent exit from Europe’s elite competition, the focus shifted onto domestic success as Barcelona look to win La Liga for the first time since 2019.
But the weekend’s result puts Xavi’s credentials to lead the side to their objectives in major doubt. Real Madrid moved three-points ahead of the Blaugrana, and although the season is still far from its conclusion, Ancelotti’s side seem as if they can only go from strength to strength, as they aim to build on last campaign’s UCL and La Liga success.
Xavi took responsibility of Barcelona’s performance during his post-match interview, saying it was his ‘specific errors’ that were the reason for the player’s poor showing.
“I’m worried that we didn’t attack well, that we didn’t take advantage of our moments. It wasn’t a good day,” said Xavi after the game. “We’re in a bad dynamic and we have to change it now. We have to be more mature and compete much better. We have to learn the hard way. At this level, everything is even. We have to play much better. I won’t blame the players. I’m responsible. I’ll explain what happened. It’s my mistake, specific errors. We have to change the dynamic, this is a long season.”
The Clasico was Xavi’s 50th game in charge of the Club. Unfortunately for the legendary former midfielder, he has the worst record of all recent previous managers to have been at the helm of the Club for that number of games.
His record currently sits at 28 wins, 11 draws and 11 defeats as Barcelona boss, slightly worse than Dutch coach Frank Rijkaard, who famously gave a debut to a certain Lionel Messi.
Furthermore, Xavi’s predecessor Ronald Koeman also had a better win rate than the Spaniard. The former Dutch centre-back won 33 games of his opening 50 in charge of the club, drawing 7 and losing just 10. Koeman was hounded out of the Nou Camp due to a lack of results, as well as an unattractive brand of football. However, the former Everton coach did better in his first half century of games than Xavi, with a significantly worse squad than the current crop of players.
Many Barcelona fans have expressed their frustrations with recent results online, stating that Xavi’s loyalty to older players such as Sergio Busquets as the reason for the lack of quality when it’s needed most.
Some fans even began the “Xavi out” claims, urging the Club to hire former Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel as his replacement, who is one of a few top managers currently out of a job.
Given how much of Barcelona’s future has been leveraged to build this squad, Laporta may not have the patience to stick with Xavi should results not improve as the Club slip further and further away from their financial targets.