When Xavi stepped on the José Zorrilla turf earlier today, playing his 709th game for his boyhood club, he wouldn’t of put a thought on where he would be in 9 years time. If you were to guess you would hopefully say a developing coach, perhaps at his beloved Barcelona. It would be foolish to think of anything else so early after retiring or with such little coaching. It would be beyond the wildest of dreams to say he would of amassed a history of 16 cups (2 of which being the enigmatic and much sought after champions league trophy), managed arguably the 2 best teams of the decade and also pulled a win ratio of 73.48%. All of that by 2023? But that’s what his predecessor has done. One Josep Guardiola.
Now Guardiola has always been aspirational, but at the age of 34 I don’t think even he envisioned where the next 9 years would take him , let alone the critics. At 34, he had already moved away from his also beloved Barcelona, having a last spin in a inferior league at Al-Ahli. Although he was said to be player of the season at the club, Guardiola must of thought it’s the end of the road, and certainly the end of winning big silverware and being in the main hub of European football. He was right, for the next 18 months at least. After spending a little time juggling both playing for Dorados de Sinaloa and coaching for a school in mexico, he finally retired from professional football. However soon after Guardiola had achieved some of his coaching badges and had experienced various small roles in coaching. 7 months after his retirement, his club, the club, the one he only dreamed coaching came calling. It was his chance. After a successful spell through the B team, and beginning to develop his own philosophy, one or two began looking over there shoulder.
The first team was in a bit of a mess, not really challenging in Europe for the past 4 seasons and not dominating the league as they were used to. By all means this didn’t mean they were bad, there were still doing incredibly well, they just weren’t quite meeting the high standards Barcelona set and subsequently the ones Pep set. The first team lacked cohesion and leadership, established stars such as Deco and Ronaldinho were past there prime and just about could get away without putting in the hard work. On 8 May 2008, the day after Barcelona’s dismal 4–1 defeat against bitter rivals Real Madrid and with the team out of all major competitions, Rijkaard’s leadership had came to an end, something new and bold had to be done. After being snubbed by Jose Mourinho, who could not pander to the philosophy, Barcelona had to try even harder. Looking internally, looking for the continuation as Barcelona do, they hired none other than man himself. Pep then went about the next 6 months drastically changing the style, the belief, the discipline. He removed the old guard, who were lagged and brought into the frame everything that the youth had to offer.He brought the best of his players such as Lionel Messi, who had some of the performances that earned him the tagline of best ever, under Guardiola. It was then set for the next 4 years of arguably the best managership in the history of the club, creating perhaps the most formidable, the most technically and tactically gifted club side that ever graced a football pitch.
So where does Xavi come in? On the pitch the parallels are uncanny between the two however, both of them like chess players, seeing the play 3-4 passes ahead of everybody else, and with the feet and touch to execute them. They both have a retreated, yet so charismatic personalities, both are well spoken in interviews, well mannered but also with a sharp and witty tongue. Take for example Xavi’s snap at Mourinho or Guardiola’s at his former assistant both of them sharp criticisms, on event’s and people, who have hardly not warranted them. The reverse of this, is the fact both of them have tremendous respect for there elders, Xavi for Guardiola himself, but also Guardiola an example being in the recent match-up between Arsenal and Bayern, where he showed a deep respect for someone he viewed as a such a powerful figure when growing up.
Now I appreciate that them following the same path, is highly unlikely. Unlike his counterpart Xavi has stayed at Barcelona, and that may mean he goes through the easy route, unlike Guardiola and may work his way through the youth teams, that may also mean he may not learn as much as him, or at least experience as much. But as revealed today Xavi wants to keep the door open, he wants to go in to coaching, but he also wants to stay at Barcelona. Now I take the same view as former Barcelona president Joan Laporta, I think eventually Xavi will be Barcelona’s head coach, just like his counterpart, mentor and friend Pep. He has the intelligence, charisma and experience in the game to. How far he will go, how successful he will be, well only he and time can tell us that.