Xavi's Return to Barcelona Should Restore Emphasis on Youth

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Adam Davy - EMPICS / Contributor

Ronald Koeman’s sacking at Barcelona was inevitable, but his replacement was equally unsurprising considering his roots.

Xavi Hernandez returns to Barcelona after nearly six years away from the club during his time as a player and manager at Al Sadd. During that time, Lionel Messi left the Blaugrana to embark on a new journey at Paris Saint-Germain and the club has gone through four managers. 

Everything hasn’t been going according to plan at the club since club greats like Xavi and Andres Iniesta left the club nearly a half-decade ago, and a lot of that can be attributed to Barcelona’s unwillingness to completely move into the future by embracing their youth.

By now, everyone knows about Pedri, Gavi and Ansu Fati given their star qualities, but the club’s hesitation to remove older players that have clearly lost a step is what’s holding Barcelona back.

Take Barca’s recent loss to Rayo Vallecano as an example. It was Barca’s first loss to Rayo since 2002 and the lone goal that won the match for the Spanish side came directly off of a mistake from past-prime players Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique.

This isn’t to say that young players don’t make mistakes because they certainly do. Sergino Dest missed a clear chance in front of goal against Rayo, but the American is still acclimating to life as a right winger after typically being deployed as a wing back.

Xavi won’t have the luxury of going out and building his squad based on stars from other clubs. Reports suggest that he and the club are interested in Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, but given Barcelona’s financial troubles most moves will be difficult to make until they offload expensive players.

That’s why La Masia is so important. Barcelona’s famed academy produced the likes of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta, as well as their current crop of next-generation stars, the youth system will be even more vital moving forward as the Blaugrana aim to climb out of their financial despair.

While rivals Real Madrid potentially eye up a move for Kylian Mbappe next summer to pair with Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr., Xavi needs to focus on what he has at his disposal.

What made Barcelona’s teams of the past so dominant were the relationships built in the middle of the pitch, and that clearly starts with Pedri and Gavi.

It’s way too early to call them Xavi and Iniesta, but the comparisons are natural. Both sets of players have innate senses of positioning as well as dribbling skills that make it very difficult for opponents to take the ball off their feet.

This may not be the Barcelona team of old, but if anyone is capable of getting the best out of the current group and building towards a ‘Tiki Taka’ team of the past it’s certainly Xavi.

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