Guardiola comparisons are weighing me down – Barcelona’s Xavi

Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez has said comparisons with his former teammate and coach Pep Guardiola are not helpful for his own managerial career.

Xavi has led Barca to a first LaLiga title since 2019 in his first full season as coach at Spotify Camp Nou, but he has had to fend off criticism of the way his team have played at times.

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Barca recorded 1-0 wins on 11 occasions in LaLiga this season while keeping a league-record equalling 26 clean sheets, but there is a demand for them to be more exciting in attack due to the bar set by now-Manchester City coach Guardiola during his time as coach between 2008 and 2012.

“The figure of Guardiola is weighing me down as a coach,” Xavi told Catalan media outlet TV3.

“I don’t think it’s fair [to constantly make the comparison]. It happened to me when I was a player as well. Everyone has to turn the page.”

While Xavi said he does not feel there has been universal support for what he has achieved at the club, he does feel valued internally, with a new contract until 2026 expected to be agreed soon.

“Yes,” he said when asked if renewal talks were progressing well. “We will come to an understanding sooner rather than later.

“I know the club will make as much of an effort as they can and there won’t be any problems. I’ll end up renewing and hopefully I can continue here for many years.”

Xavi, who cut his teeth at Al-Sadd in Qatar as a coach before returning to Barca in 2021, has also had to lead a generational change at Camp Nou which has tested his friendships with former teammates.

Since taking charge, he has seen defender Gerard Pique retire, while both Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets will leave the club this summer, although neither have announced their next destination.

“When you have to make decisions which are not what the players want, it gets difficult,” Xavi said. “I had to tell Pique to step to the side, that he would play less. I even struggled to sleep, because we had enjoyed so much together.

“With Jordi, you have the feeling that you’re letting him down as a friend, but you have to prioritise the team. It happened to me with Luis Enrique, you don’t get it because after so many years as a regular, you feel you should be playing.

“Jordi was angry, which is understandable. But after, there was a group chat and he told us he was 100% committed. And he was, just as Pique was. They picked the right moment to leave.”

After managing those situations and winning LaLiga and the Spanish Super Cup this season, Xavi, who this week spoke of his desire to re-sign Lionel Messi, must now take steps forward in the Champions League after back-to-back group stage exits.

“The feeling of not being able to compete in Europe has been very hard to deal with, one of the worst feelings I’ve had as a coach,” Xavi said.

“It’s this team’s unfinished business. We have to compete and aspire to win everything. We have to strengthen well this summer to do better in the Champions League.”