Why manager Xavi is leaving Barcelona at the end of the seasonĀ 
Image: courtesy

Barcelona manager Xavi says he will step down at the end of the season.

The former Barcelona and Spain midfielder took charge in November 2021 after leaving Qatari club Al Sadd.

He guided Barca to the Spanish title in his first full season in charge in 2022-23, but Saturday's 5-3 home defeat by Villarreal leaves them 10 points behind La Liga leaders Real Madrid.

 

"I've been a man of the club. I've prioritised it above even myself. I've given everything I have," said Xavi.

"And I will continue to do so to make the fans feel proud."

The 44-year-old, who won 25 honours during an illustrious playing career at Barcelona, will officially step down on 30 June despite still having a year left on his contract.

 

The 2010 World Cup winner said he made the decision following talks with Barcelona president Joan Laporta, vice-president Rafa Yuste, with sporting director Deco.

"I think the club needs a change of dynamic," said Xavi. "For the good of the players, I believe that they will free themselves. We play with a lot of tension.

"For the good of the board of directors, it is best that I leave. I will give my best. I think all of that will help the dynamic change. This is the message I would like to give. I think I am doing the right thing."

Xavi said this month he would "pack his bags" if his players lost faith in him following a 4-1 defeat by rivals Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup.

Barca responded with back-to-back wins, but then went out of the Copa del Rey with defeat at Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday before slipping further behind in the title race at Villarreal.

Xavi says the job has taken its toll and the time is right for him to step back for his mental health.

"In Barcelona, you always feel like you're not valued, you're mistreated - that's how the club works," he said.

"From a mental-health level, it's tough too. I am a positive guy, but the battery levels keep running out - and at some point, you realise there's no point in staying."

Xavi also hopes that by announcing his departure now it will "de-escalate" the situation for the rest of the season, which includes a Champions League last-16 tie against Napoli next month.

"I wouldn't change my decision even if I won the Champions League. I will tell the players tomorrow. I'm the most responsible one, so the players will finally feel free now," he added.

"I'm not driven by financial matters, but by my heart. I think it's the best thing for the club.

"I don't want to be a problem, but a solution, and I believe that between now and June I can still be a solution."

'I don't know if he will continue managing after this'

Analysis by Spanish football expert Guillem Balague

Xavi is first and foremost a fan of Barcelona and a good, realistic analyst of the situation at a club he knows very well from the inside.

Secondly, he is a manager who prepared himself to be Barcelona manager. I don't see him managing anybody else. I don't know if he will continue managing after this.

So with those two things in hand and having won the league, that was a crucial moment for his time at Barcelona. And instead of using his weight to get more authority, the club took the authority off him. So he lost sporting director Jordi Cruyff, he lost the director of football Mateu Alemany and that meant he was on his own.

Remember, Xavi was not a choice of club president Joan Laporta. Xavi was coming with another candidate in the elections, Victor Font, and when Laporta won the election he felt the fans wanted a former legend at a time of crisis and confusion to take the team. So he gave him a chance.

He wanted Xavi to have one or two years with the B side, like Pep Guardiola had done, but Xavi said no, I just wanted to be in the first team. Laporta was never convinced by him.

The players should be at a different level after three years in charge. Individually they look worse than last season and collectively there is no defined style. Xavi will have to decide if that was his own failure, or if the conditions were not right for him to succeed.

Because he had a lot of success as a player he does not need to push for success as a manager. If he doesn't want it that much, then maybe he wasn't ready for Barcelona. But that is something he will have to analyse at some point.