Xavi’s presentation as the new head coach of Barcelona took place at Camp Nou on Monday, with the Blaugrana hoping that the legendary former midfielder will be able to reverse their fortunes. Ronald Koeman’s poor start to the campaign left Joan Laporta with no other option and, after some tough negotiations with Al Sadd, Xavi was finally brought in.
In a press conference that lasted over an hour, Xavi discussed his footballing philosophy and the values he wants to instil in this Barcelona side, as well as his aim to assist with the development of young players.
“I come here to help the [youngsters] to perform, to be happy,” said Xavi at his press conference.
“We count on everyone. We want to see them all and [help them] perform in training.
“They are very young. Nico, Gavi … it is difficult to understand how they put in this [level of] performance at this age. You have to help them perform in each game. Each match is a final exam.”
Xavi went on to stress that he maintains a good relationship with Barcelona veterans and claimed that he expects them to lead the way.
“I have a very good relationship with [the veterans],” added Xavi.
“I have a direct relationship with them and I have already spoken with some. They have to lead the way in important moments. They have to lead the team. We have very young players. We will give them power in the dressing room.
“The plan is the same as for all the players. They all start from scratch. The ones I know, are precisely the ones whom I will push the most.
“I want them to lead the dressing room and they are very important because they have experienced many situations. I know their strengths and weaknesses. I have no problem. I consider it an advantage.”
The former Al Sadd coach also discussed the football philosophy his coaching staff are hoping to impose on the team upon their arrival.
“More than the system, it is the model, the idea,” noted Xavi.
“At Al Sadd we played 3-4-3 because we were very dominant. It will be different here.
“In the end, it’s Cruyff’s idea. My first defender is the striker and the first attacker is the goalkeeper. You have to work tactically, know what to do on the field in different situations.
“We will tell those who are there what the idea is, what the rules are. We have a plan so that the footballer can perform. I have everything planned until the Espanyol game. The method, the idea and the game model are explained.
“If you can compete in our own way, we will be very close to achieving the results. If we convey to them that this way you can play well and win, I think we will succeed.
“We believe that the best way to win is by playing well.
“[All ways] are respectable, but we want to play happy, attacking [football], without speculating, with high pressure, with possession. Knowing why things are done. We will try to help them.”
Xavi also explained why he turned down Barcelona’s offers to take charge of the team in the past and broke down the reasons behind his decision to join the club now.
“The first two times that Barcelona approached us, we did not feel it [was the right moment], both at a family and football level,” stressed Xavi.
“I also believed that it was early. Then, with elections in between, it did not seem like the right moment.
“Now, I have a very good relationship with Joan [Laporta]. I think he is the best president this club has ever had. He called me and I had no doubts. There were more family doubts.
“In Qatar we have lived very well and we have two young kids. I know that Joan is a direct guy who speaks clearly. I see that the board looks after the club.”
Ousmane Dembele has yet to live up to expectations at Barcelona, but Xavi believes that the Frenchman has what it takes to succeed at the Blaugrana.
“There will always be injuries,” noted Xavi.
“The problem is that there are too many. You have to train well, prevent [players from suffering injuries] in the gym. Do all kinds of things so that the player is well.
“For me, Dembele can be the best in the world in his position by working. I have no doubts that he can make a difference at Barcelona and be a world star. We have to help him. His renewal is a priority, of course.”
Xavi mentioned that he would like to have coached some of the superstars of old but that his intention now is to assist the new generation.
“Yes, I want to coach Messi, Eto’o Ronaldinho,” he said.
“Messi sent me a message wishing me luck. We can no longer think about the players we don’t have.”
“We [need to] understand [our style] as a positional game. We can change the system,” he said.
“We want to be aggressive, intense, put pressure in the opponent’s half. [To] go out to win.”
Injuries have plagued Barcelona this season, and Xavi hopes those fortunes will change.
“Obviously we are concerned. We have to regain order, to see what the problem is and provide solutions,” he noted.
“It is a task for the medical team. We have an idea, but we have to talk to the president. We have to recover players.”
Xavi has had several great mentors throughout his career, like Louis van Gaal, Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique and believes he has taken lessons from all of them.
“I have learned from everyone. There are times when I am on the bench and I remember comments from coaches that I have had [in the past],” he stated.
“I have been very lucky because they have given me a lot of experience. I have been nurtured by many people. I have an idea and I want to convey it.
“Being compared to [Guardiola] is a success for everything he has done. He is a reference to me, the best in the world.
“Any comparison with him is bad for me. I know where I am, we have to great demands of ourselves and the results will tell.”
With Barcelona on poor form, Xavi knows that results are necessary from the off.
“We are already thinking about the Espanyol game. We have a derby at home. We will prepare to win it,” he said.
“Here we have to win and win again. It is evident that we are not in the best moment in our history.
“It is a medium to long-term project