Xavi's management has helped Barça to an eight-point lead in LaLiga this season
Xavi Hernández is proving that he has the makings of a great coach and that he was perfectly capable of taking the reins of a club of the magnitude of FC Barcelona.
He was able to turn the team around after taking over from Ronald Koeman, qualifying them directly for the Champions League -- the primary objective -- and in his first full season in charge he has the team leading LaLiga, in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey and champions of the Supercopa. The only blemish was the early exit from the Champions League.
In addition to the sporting aspect, Xavi has excelled in terms of group management and has overcome five difficulties with an outstanding grade. The Barça coach never tires of repeating that he is very proud of the way the players behave, the attitude with which they work and that they have formed a very united group, like a family. And that is to the coach's credit. Let's go through the 'problems' one by one that he has solved with great success.
Managing the veterans
Xavi said from day one that it was not a problem for him to manage players with whom he had shared a dressing room. He considered it an advantage because he already knew them. And time has proved him completely right. From the start, he told Piqué that he would be the fifth centre-back in the squad and that he would not get many opportunities. The defender opted to stay but Xavi stuck to his guns and only used him when injuries prevented him from using Araujo, Christensen or Koundé. With everyone recovered, Piqué returned to the sidelines until he opted to retire early. And Barça's defence has not fallen apart, on the contrary. It is more solid than ever and Piqué can enjoy his other personal projects.
With Jordi Alba, he was not so extreme but he has also reserved a more secondary role for him and the full-back, although it has not been easy, is assuming his role to perfection. He trains as a starter and when it is his turn to play he performs. The most obvious proof of this is the great game he played against Sevilla. It was to be expected that Busquets would not pose so many problems, but Xavi is still getting the best out of him to the point that he is trying to get him to renew for another season. And Sergi Roberto has not complained, either, even though his participation has not been too high.
But all of them, captains and key players at Barça in recent years, are taking on their new roles without a bad face and working with the enthusiasm of a youth player in case they have to help the team at any time.
Growth of the youngsters
Xavi was required to rebuild the side, and a large part of the success has been down to the younger players stepping up and showing that they can carry the weight of the team on the pitch. And in this aspect, the coach has been able to consolidate Gavi, who is becoming a much better midfielder than when he started in the first team, thanks in part to the individualised video sessions, and has given Balde total confidence to be the left-back of the present and future of Barça.
The big challenge that perhaps remains is to recover the best version of Ansu Fati, but Xavi has been very cautious with the No. '10' considering all the physical problems he has suffered in recent years.
The best Ousmane Dembélé
For months, the French winger had practically two feet outside Barça. In fact, his contract came to an end and, rather than a renewal, it was a re-signing. Xavi fought for Dembélé's continuity against all odds and his perseverance has paid off. We are seeing the best version of him since he arrived at the club. Despite the fact that he is now injured, he has put an end to his eternal physical problems and is getting better and better at understanding the game.
Xavi has helped him to improve his decision making and by showing him absolute confidence he has become a much more committed player with the team and much more consistent. Now the club need to renew his contract again.
Recovering De Jong after difficult summer
Frenkie de Jong was one of the names of the summer transfer window. Barça's need to sell a player put the Dutchman in the firing line. He had offers and Barça, if they could get €85 million, were willing to sell him. But the player always made it very clear to everyone that he did not want to move. Relations between all parties became very tense when Barcelona considered taking action against the renewals of De Jong, Ter Stegen and Lenglet signed under the previous board.
Despite all these problems, the midfielder stayed and although in the first few games he was not an undisputed starter, over time he has become a key player for Xavi. In recent games, he has been performing spectacularly and it is partly thanks to Xavi's good management of him. Not only by creating the best ecosystem for him to exploit his great qualities as a midfielder, but also mentally. Xavi has blind confidence.
Lewandowski the star
The Polish striker arrived at Barça with nothing to prove. He had won absolutely everything at Bayern Munich and his name was already among the best in the world. Although it was very clear at all times that Lewandowski was very motivated to come to Barça, perhaps there was some doubt as to how he would fit into a new league, in a new team, with young players and in the midst of a rebuilding process. And, it must also be said, how he would respond under the orders of a coach like Xavi, a coach without much managing experience in Europe or with big stars.
And again, the management with Lewandowski is a resounding success. The Pole is a leader for the rest of the team, a mirror for the younger players, and his performances are spectacular. He is fully integrated into the club, the city and the squad..