Barcelona debate Xavi’s future in chaotic twist – sources

Barcelona are once again debating the future of Xavi Hernández less than a month after president Joan Laporta and the coach himself announced at a news conference that the Catalan would continue for at least another season, sources told ESPN.

The official version from Barcelona is that nothing has changed, but sources told ESPN “do not rule out” Xavi’s dismissal and insist that Laporta has never trusted the coach.

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Another source added there is an internal dispute at the club over Xavi’s continuity because, while some voices are in favour of him staying on, Laporta has been under pressure for weeks both from within his own board and from outside the club to part ways with the coach.

Xavi’s camp are trying to play down the tension and asking for “calm” but, sources told ESPN, they have not yet received any information from the board about his possible departure despite the fact that speculation began before Thursday’s 2-0 win over Almeria.

Sources close to Laporta and Xavi are not surprised by this new turn of events because they see the president as a person who leads the club from the “emotional” side.

On this occasion, the trigger that precipitated Laporta’s new doubts about Xavi’s continuity was the news conference prior to the Almeria game in which the Catalan coach referred to the financial difficulties which are hindering Barça’s attempts to win trophies.

Laporta subsequently did not travel with the team to Almería, as he usually would have done. Sources said he is weighing up whether Xavi should continue in the post, with several internal and external influences pushing for the coach to be fired.

Xavi, 44, announced in January his plans to step down at the end of the season, but performed a U-turn on that decision last month despite Barça’s Champions League exit and defeat to Real Madrid in LaLiga, which left the Blaugrana on the verge of a trophy-less campaign.

That decision came after a meeting with Laporta at his house Barcelona, but sources claim Xavi’s discourse on Wednesday was different to the optimism he had displayed to the president on that April evening.

“We are going to try to compete,” Xavi said this week. “The situation is difficult financially. It has nothing to do with what used to happen 25 years ago, when the coach came and said ‘I like this player, this one and this one.’

“It doesn’t work like that anymore. The supporters need to understand the situation. As the coach, I understand what’s happening and that’s how we’re going to manage things.

“Right now, we are not in the same conditions as other clubs with better [financial] fair play, that’s the reality. The fans should know. But this doesn’t mean that we won’t try to achieve our goals.”

Those comments upset Laporta, who then did not to travel to Almería, where Barça won 2-0 to move four points clear of third place Girona — who beat them 4-2 last week — and take a huge step towards finishing second in LaLiga and securing their place in next season’s Spanish Supercopa.

“Nothing has been said to me personally [by the club],” Xavi told reporters after the Almería win. “The relationship has not changed. The vice president [Rafa Yuste] travelled, as did other directors.

“I just said what I think, what’s real, that we are going to fight for everything but the situation is not easy and we are all working together to turn the situation around. Our reality does not change.

“I am looking forward to preseason, planning it with [sporting director] Deco. There is excitement and it’s an honour to be at best club in world, with the ambition to win trophies.

“I just said [on Wednesday] that the financial situation is not best, but we are all working hard to turn it around and strengthen for next season. Nothing has changed, although I understand there is always a stir here.”

Xavi first announced earlier this year that he would step down in the summer after a 5-3 defeat to Villarreal, explaining that his departure was in the club’s best interests.

However, following an upturn in results, and despite defeats to Paris Saint-Germain and Madrid in April, he reversed that decision, although sources at the time classified it as a “uneasy truce.”

Barça had leant towards Xavi staying in the role given their problems in finding a successor, in part because of the lack of options on the market and also because of the club’s financial difficulties, which made appointing an in-work coach impossible and selling the project to other potential candidates hard.

Xavi, meanwhile, agreed to stay on because he is a “club man,” but a source close to the coaching staff told ESPN at the time that the feeling was “bittersweet” because they felt “weakened” and that they would be in the firing line at the first bump in the road.

That has proven so this week, with Xavi’s comments angering the club and creating doubts about who will be the coach of Barcelona next season.

Xavi, who made over 700 appearances for the club as a player, replaced Ronald Koeman in 2021 and steered Barça to a second place finish in his first term in charge before winning the LaLiga title and the Supercopa last season.

Barça have failed to build on that success this season, although they did progress to the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time since 2020, and will end the campaign without a trophy.