Snubbing Barca, Messi, Guardiola comparison – Xavi’s first words as Barcelona manager

Xavi unveil

Xavi Hernandez has vowed to set out a series of rules for Barcelona players, after he was unveiled as Ronald Koeman‘s successor on Monday.

The 41-year-old takes over after an agreement was reached to rescind his contract with Al Sadd.

“I think at first, it’s important that we put rules in place and be more demanding with ourselves,” Xavi said when asked how he would try and turn things around.

“After that, we can talk about values, about respect and attitude, because if we don’t have values, we don’t have a team. Then we can look at the model, how we play, how we attack, how we defend.

“At the end of the day, the idea is the same as [Johan] Cruyff‘s. My first defender is the striker and my first attacker is the goalkeeper. We have to work tactically, press high and dominate the ball.

“It’s not about being tough, but having rules. I will try to help the players, personally and professionally. I know how taxing it is psychologically to play for this club.”

Xavi has twice been offered the Barca job since leaving for Al Sadd in 2015, where he spent four years as a player before taking over as coach at the Qatari club in 2019.

He explained that he turned the role down twice in 2020, when Josep Maria Bartomeu was president, because the timing was not right for him and his family, while the “uncertainty” at the club also put him off.

“From the moment [president] Joan [Laporta] called this time, I had no doubts,” Xavi said, who also revealed he held talks with Brazil about joining Tite’s coaching staff before taking over after the 2022 World Cup.

“It’s true there was an approach from Brazil but returning to Barcelona was my dream. I have a great relationship with Laporta, he’s the best president the club have ever had, and this was the right moment.”

Xavi’s appointment has quickly drawn comparisons to Laporta’s decision to hire Pep Guardiola in 2008, with the Catalan club winning the treble the following season, although it was also pointed out that other former players have not faired quite so well when taking over at their former clubs.

“It’s a success if I am already being compared to Pep,” Xavi added. “I hope that I will be on the list with Pep and [former Real Madrid coach Zinedine] Zidane as opposed to the other one!”

However, Xavi acknowledged the circumstances he takes over in are completely different from the situation Pep Guardiola inherited over a decade ago.

Barca are in a rebuilding stage after losing Lionel Messi — who Xavi revealed has sent him a good luck message — to Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer in the summer, while a series of injuries have also affected their performances this season.

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