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Xavi — Barca’s prodigal son who found the silver lining

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Embracing success: The heavyweight Spanish club has had to turn to one of its legends to revive its fortunes.
| Photo Credit: AP

The romance of winning titles both as a master and an apprentice at a football club sounds like the perfect media story, or even a Hollywood script.

Bob Paisley did it with Liverpool, Carlo Ancelotti with AC Milan and Zinedine Zidane with Real Madrid. Now, Xavi Hernandez has completed his circle of life with Barcelona.

Beating Espanyol 4-2 on Monday, with four games to go, Barcelona won its first LaLiga title in four seasons, under the stewardship of Xavi, who had won eight league titles as a player at the club.

And that circle of life became more special given the circumstances at the club.

In 2020, when Liverpool won the Premier League, people came out with flares, children on top of their fathers’ shoulders, cheering for their club in a world that was desperate for happiness during the catastrophic COVID-19 period.

Barcelona’s longing for joy was similar, if not the same. The players celebrated their silverware with a sardana, like gleeful toddlers rejoicing in a garden. Fans sang, with tears rolling down their cheeks, and Xavi stood smiling from ear to ear.

The club has been embroiled in a refereeing scandal, where allegations of paying the former president of the LaLiga refereeing committee, Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, for “technical reports” have earned it a bad name.

Severe financial crisis had seen Barcelona legend Lionel Messi leave even as the club plunged into a debt of over a billion euros. It sold 25% of its LaLiga broadcasting rights and had to shut down its own channel Barca TV.

With a fractured team and no trophies since Messi’s exit, being a Barcelona fan became tougher. And being the manager became a nightmare.

‘It’s hard’

“I am constantly judged and criticised. It’s hard, I have a family and kids,” Xavi had lamented in March this year. “There are many moments when it doesn’t pay to be a Barca coach. And even more so if you’re a Cule like me.”

With exits from the Champions League, Europa League and Copa del Rey, nights got darker in Catalonia.

Rays of hope eventually arrived in the Spanish Super Cup, where Barcelona beat arch-rival Real Madrid to win the trophy in January, and four months later, snatched the LaLiga from the very same team with a victory over another rival (Espanyol).

Xavi is one of 21st century’s club legend-turned-managers, emulating Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Frank Lampard and Mikel Arteta.

But in the hardest of times, he proved to be the prodigal son of Barcelona, living by the motto Mes Que Un Club (more than a club) and finding the silver lining at Camp Nou.


Embracing success: The heavyweight Spanish club has had to turn to one of its legends to revive its fortunes.

Embracing success: The heavyweight Spanish club has had to turn to one of its legends to revive its fortunes.
| Photo Credit: AP

The romance of winning titles both as a master and an apprentice at a football club sounds like the perfect media story, or even a Hollywood script.

Bob Paisley did it with Liverpool, Carlo Ancelotti with AC Milan and Zinedine Zidane with Real Madrid. Now, Xavi Hernandez has completed his circle of life with Barcelona.

Beating Espanyol 4-2 on Monday, with four games to go, Barcelona won its first LaLiga title in four seasons, under the stewardship of Xavi, who had won eight league titles as a player at the club.

And that circle of life became more special given the circumstances at the club.

In 2020, when Liverpool won the Premier League, people came out with flares, children on top of their fathers’ shoulders, cheering for their club in a world that was desperate for happiness during the catastrophic COVID-19 period.

Barcelona’s longing for joy was similar, if not the same. The players celebrated their silverware with a sardana, like gleeful toddlers rejoicing in a garden. Fans sang, with tears rolling down their cheeks, and Xavi stood smiling from ear to ear.

The club has been embroiled in a refereeing scandal, where allegations of paying the former president of the LaLiga refereeing committee, Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, for “technical reports” have earned it a bad name.

Severe financial crisis had seen Barcelona legend Lionel Messi leave even as the club plunged into a debt of over a billion euros. It sold 25% of its LaLiga broadcasting rights and had to shut down its own channel Barca TV.

With a fractured team and no trophies since Messi’s exit, being a Barcelona fan became tougher. And being the manager became a nightmare.

‘It’s hard’

“I am constantly judged and criticised. It’s hard, I have a family and kids,” Xavi had lamented in March this year. “There are many moments when it doesn’t pay to be a Barca coach. And even more so if you’re a Cule like me.”

With exits from the Champions League, Europa League and Copa del Rey, nights got darker in Catalonia.

Rays of hope eventually arrived in the Spanish Super Cup, where Barcelona beat arch-rival Real Madrid to win the trophy in January, and four months later, snatched the LaLiga from the very same team with a victory over another rival (Espanyol).

Xavi is one of 21st century’s club legend-turned-managers, emulating Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Frank Lampard and Mikel Arteta.

But in the hardest of times, he proved to be the prodigal son of Barcelona, living by the motto Mes Que Un Club (more than a club) and finding the silver lining at Camp Nou.

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