On November 6 2021, the football world finally heard the news it knew was coming: Barcelona had hired legendary midfielder Xavi to replace sacked manager Ronald Koeman and, they hoped, lead them into a new era.
It was not an easy task for the 42-year-old Catalan, who was so successful over his 17 years as a Barcelona player.
Since Xavi left Barca in 2015 to play for and then manage Qatari club Al Sadd, Barcelona have dug themselves into a deep financial hole. So deep, indeed, that they were forced to let the great Lionel Messi depart for pastures new last summer.
With Koeman at the helm, they were drifting on the pitch too.
Barcelona had won just four of their first 13 games of the season and, just as significantly, were lacking something of the identity that one has come to expect of the men in Blaugrana.
Bringing in Xavi was held up as the antidote to that. Despite his relative coaching inexperience, he is a man steeped in the vaunted Barcelona way, someone who grew up at the club in the era of Johann Cruyff’s Dream Team and played for it in the epoch of Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering pass masters.
He certainly knew what to say at his unveiling to strengthen the bond with fans, if it needed strengthening.
Standing on the Camp Nour turf, he stated: “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.
“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.”
They won Xavi’s first game, a morale-lifting 1-0 Catalan derby victory with a team much changed from the Koeman doom times.
Since, then, it has not all been plain sailing. There was a heavy loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, which resulted in Barcelona dropping in the Europa League for the first time since 2003-04.
Barca also lost their first Clasico of the Xavi era with a 3-2 defeat in the Super Cup, and suffered a shock exit in the Europa League against Eintracht Frankfurt.
But there are major signs of progress. Since Xavi’s arrival, Barcelona have won more La Liga points than anybody else. They are currently five points ahead of Real Madrid in La Liga in the quest for their first league title since 2019.
That uptick in form, that began last November, was enough to see Barcelona shoot up to second in the 2021-22 table, finishing runners-up and sewing up Champions League qualification with three games to spare.
That was Xavi’s remit when he arrived, and back in November a top-four finish was anything but guaranteed.
And Barcelona’s 4-0 victory away at the Bernabeu in March was evidence that Xavi is making Barcelona a serious force to be reckoned with once again – and they’ve started the new season in impressive form. We could be set for a thrilling La Liga title race in the upcoming months…
Here, we’ve taken a full look at the La Liga table over the past 12 months, to see how Xavi has fared in comparison to his adversaries. Teams have played 39 games unless stated otherwise.
Note: we’ve only included the 17 teams that have been in La Liga throughout Xavi’s tenure as Barcelona’s manager. This table doesn’t include last season’s relegated trio Granada, Levante and Alaves or 2022-23’s newly-promoted sides Almeria, Real Valladolid and Girona.
1. Barcelona – 93 points, +54 GD (40 games played)
2. Real Madrid – 91 points, +52 GD
3. Atletico Madrid – 72 points, +22 GD
4. Real Betis – 67 points, +26 GD (38 games played)
5. Villarreal – 62 points, +29 GD
6. Athletic Bilbao – 61 points, +14 GD (40 games played)
7. Real Sociedad – 57 points, -5 GD
8. Sevilla – 54 points, +1 GD
9. Osasuna – 51 points, -9 GD
10. Valencia – 47 points, -2 GD
11. Celta Vigo – 47 points, -8 GD (37 games played)
12. Getafe – 44 points, 0 GD (37 games played)
13. Rayo Vallecano – 43 points, -12 GD (38 games played)
14. Mallorca – 40 points, -22 GD (38 games played)
15. Cadiz – 38 points, -23 GD (38 games played)
16. Espanyol – 37 points, -19 GD (38 games played)
17. Elche – 35 points, -27 GD
The article How the La Liga table would look if it began when Barcelona hired Xavi appeared first on Planetfootball.com.