Xavi explains Barcelona U-turn: The project isn’t finished

Xavi Hernández said Thursday that he has unfinished business at Barcelona after backtracking on his decision to step down as head coach at the end of the season.

Xavi announced in January that he would leave the job in the summer, despite having a contract until 2025, but sources told ESPN on Wednesday he had agreed to stay on after defeats to Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid in the past week effectively ended Barça’s hopes of silverware this season.

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Speaking in a news conference Thursday, he said the support of the club and a desire to finish the project he inherited in 2021 were among the reasons for his U-turn.

“I love Barça and I always try to do what is in the club’s best interests,” Xavi said.

“In these three months [since announcing my departure], I have noticed the support from the president [Joan Laporta], the board of directors and [sporting director] Deco.

“The support of the players and the fans — who have encouraged me on the street and filled the stadium — has also been important in deciding to reverse my decision.

“We probably won’t win any trophies this season, but this is a winning project. We have to continue with it and we have to keep working hard. I feel we have the capacity, the energy and the motivation to keep going.

“In January, I thought a change was needed, but I think this is the best decision now. I think it brings stability and I am happy, above all, for the backing I have received from the club.

“Many people have made me see that this project is not finished. I am staying to keep winning. We will correct the small details that have cost us this year and we believe next season we will be closer to our objectives.”

Xavi insisted his decision to step down in January after a 5-3 loss to Villarreal was not based on “ego” and that he genuinely thought it was what the club needed at the time.

One of the reasons he gave in January was the intense pressure that surrounds the club and, while he admitted that will not change at the first sign of trouble next season, he accepted it is part of the job.

“Next season, if there is a bad run, we will have to deal with it again,” he added.

“But the pressure and the environment surrounding the club were not the main reasons [for leaving]. I know this club and would not have taken the job on if that was a problem.

“My opinion of the environment surrounding the club is that it will continue to be cruel and unpleasant in adverse situations. But I told the president I am motivated and that the project is not over.”

Xavi also denied that he had enforced any conditions related to his backroom staff or summer signings on the club to stay, while he hit out at reports the club had decided to stick with him solely because he was demanding to be paid the rest of his contract otherwise.

“That’s absolutely not the case and comes from people who want to do damage to me as a person,” he said. “Laporta and Deco know — and I also said in public — I would give up that money and that it could go towards the next coach.”

Speaking alongside Xavi, Laporta said the club requires “stability” and that it was a “unanimous” decision for Xavi to stay on.

The Barça president added that the club had not spoken with any other coaches in the meantime as they always hoped Xavi would change his mind.

Pressed on a comment he made in the past about “losing bringing consequences,” he said those consequences don’t have to be drastic and that the required changes would be led by Xavi and Deco this summer.

Barça embarked on a 13-game unbeaten run after Xavi’s announcement in January, but that streak ended when they lost to PSG in the Champions League quarterfinal last week.

That defeat was followed by a 3-2 El Clásico loss against Real Madrid, leaving them 11 points behind the LaLiga leaders and facing a trophyless campaign.

Xavi, who made over 700 appearances for Barça as a player, took over from Ronald Koeman in 2021, leading the team from ninth to second in LaLiga and then winning the club’s first league title since 2019 last year in his first full season in charge.