Xavi Hernández: the strategy of hiring former players as coaches

Xavi Hernández joins the extensive list of former players of the Catalan club in assuming the technical direction of the team. How successful has this formula been? .

Presentation of Xavi Hernández in Barcelona

Who until recently led the midfield of Barcelona, now comes with a different position and a goal in mind: “work hard to achieve success.” Photo: Miguel Ruiz – FC Barcelona

LatinAmerican Post | Theoscar Mogollón González

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Leer en español: Xavi Hernández: la estrategia de contratar exjugadores como entrenadores

Thousands of soccer teams around the world have opted for their former players to assume the role of technical director. The greatest example of this today continues to be played by FC Barcelona, an institution that has been characterized by hiring its former players as coaches.

The 2021/2022 season started in a resounding way for the Catalan team, obtaining negative results never seen at this time. However, the causes of all this evil that plague the present of Barcelona come from several years ago, when the Board of Directors was chaired by Josep María Bartomeu. It could be said, then, that the storm is at its highest point and that is why the current president, Joan Laporta, has taken immediate action to seek to emerge afloat. The solution? The return of Xavi Hernández.

Also read: Soccer Players Who Returned To The Club Where They Were Consecrated

Who until recently led the midfield of Barcelona, now comes with a different position and a goal in mind: "work hard to achieve success." Illusion and optimism are what the Catalan city feels in this new era, which will have several obstacles to overcome. With Xavi, the list of former players who have assumed the role of Bara's coach reaches 17 (also adding to the interim), a figure that has seen very few triumphs.

The long road before Johan Cruyff

Before the arrival of the Dutchman to the bench, other former players passed through the command of the team. The first precedent has César Rodríguez as the protagonist in the 63/64 season, the only one that the former striker directed to Barcelona and ended without trophies. The next to try was Salvador Artigas, between 1967 and 1969, winning only the Copa del Rey. By now, 9 years had passed since the Catalans' last league title.

Although the formula was not paying off, the institution continued to search for its messiah. Josep Seguer took up the challenge in the 69/70 season, but his terrible start only allowed him to lead the team in 12 games. Another unsuccessful attempt was lived by Lucien Müller in 78/79, who ended up being dismissed after 27 games and leaving Barça seventh in the league. His replacement was Joaquim Rifé, a defender who wore the Barça colors throughout his career. Although he gave the first European Cup Winners' Cup to the club in 1979, by the middle of the following year they also removed it due to poor results.

With the 1980s underway, Barcelona managers returned to look for foreign coaches, but what they achieved was an inconsistency in results and up to four strategists in three years, one of them José Luis Romero as interim for a day. However, after several years of winning some titles thanks to several renowned technicians of the time, in 1988 the creator of the true Barcelona DNA would arrive Johan Cruyff.

The impact of the Dutchman on the institution is so great that even Xavi himself said in his presentation that "we are all children of Johan Cruyff." The Amsterdam-born man remained at the helm of Barcelona for eight years, winning 4 league titles, 3 Spanish Super Cups, a King's Cup, a European Cup, a European Cup Winners' Cup, and a European Super Cup. But his contribution went far beyond trophies, as he implemented a style of play that years later would become the club's philosophy and that would also be applied by the new generation of former Barça coaches. With him, it all began!

A style to follow

With two days remaining to finish the 95/96 season, Cruyff was dismissed after an argument with the then vice president of the club Joan Gaspart. Just after him, Carles Rexach, another former player of the club, would take over temporarily and who on several occasions served as a lifeguard against the dismissal of other technicians. Years later, Jesús Antonio de la Cruz had the opportunity to lead a meeting in 2003 after the departure of Louis Van Gaal and before the arrival of Radomir Antić. The next one on the list would mark a before and after in world football: Josep Guardiola.

Everyone knows that Barcelona's most glorious era came from Guardiola, and it is enough to mention that he won 14 titles in four seasons. There was no other path to success than this. Pep's replacement was taken by his technical assistant, and also a former club player, Tito Vilanova, however, he was only in charge for one season where he won the league 12/13 before leaving office due to cancer. Likewise, another emblem of Barcelona in assuming the technical direction was Luis Enrique, who between the 2014 and 2017 seasons had an outstanding performance that ended with 9 titles.

The ups and downs began to be present with the arrival of Ernesto Valverde in 2017, who at the time was a Barcelona player led by Cruyff. Although he won four titles in three years, he is remembered for his dismal Champions League performances. Already in 2020, one of the heroes of the 1992 European Cup returned with the intention of resuming the European illusion: Ronald Koeman. However, neither luck nor good football accompanied the Dutchman who left with a Copa del Rey and left the team in ninth position this season. On an interim basis, Sergi Barjuan, defender and captain of Barça between 1993 and 2002, assumed command of the club until the presentation of Xavi Hernández. Will the former midfielder be able to straighten the course of the Barça institution?

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