Xavi’s time as FC Barcelona manager is coming to an end.

After losing 5-3 at home to Villarreal, Xavi said he will step down from the club at the end of June. He admits that it’s time to move on for the betterment of Barcelona’s future.

Was the decision his own or did he announce his departure before Barcelona had a chance to sack him? After all, there were rumblings that the club was looking into sacking the former midfielder.

Regardless, Barcelona’s move to let Xavi leave adds to the growing turmoil at the club by taking away any form of consistency. Moreover, it damages the future of the club in the same way Barcelona’s reckless spending hampered its ability to be competitive at the turn of the decade.

The importance of development

Bringing in players like Antoine Griezmann, Philippe Coutinho and Miralem Pjanic did little to help the squad in the long run. Not only were their stints in Barcelona devoid of success, but they took time away from young players. The lack of financial power in the transfer market has forced Barcelona to rely on La Masia. Xavi has done brilliantly to promote many young players that earn ample playing time. For example, teenagers Lamine Yamal, Pau Cubarsi, Marc Guiu, and Hector Fort have played a role in the first half of Barcelona’s season.

With Xavi on his way out, any incoming manager will use these same players. These teenagers would need to adjust to a new playing style, one that may differ from the La Masia teaching Xavi came up on. Throwing different tactics at these young players could prevent proper growth as a talent.

In many other cases, clubs have benefitted from allowing a manager to spend more time at a club. Think back to when Jürgen Klopp arrived at Liverpool. The Reds of Anfield had league finishes of eighth, fourth, and fourth before it won a trophy under the German. Now, Liverpool is one of the best teams in Europe because of the tactics Klopp installed. After hiring Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United finished second in the English top flight before falling back to 11th, then 13th then sixth. Back then, Manchester United supporters wanted Fergie out. Instead, he turned the Red Devils into the most successful team in English history.

Real Madrid and Girona have already opened up a sizeable lead in the league table. Granted, as of writing, it is only seven points behind Real Madrid and eight behind Girona, but an exit from the Copa del Rey shows there is not much to play for this season.

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Other areas of blame

It was only one season ago that Barcelona finished atop LaLiga for the first time since 2018/19 under Ernesto Valverde. A sensational defensive record combined with the unmatched form of Robert Lewandowski, who won the Pichichi as the league’s top scorer with 23 goals, provided Barcelona with a ‘long-awaited’ title. Both of those have vanished this season. Certainly, some of that falls on Xavi’s shoulders, but he is not alone in the blame for Barcelona’s issues.

Lewandowski has drawn particular ire from Barcelona supporters for his inefficiency in front of goal. The Polish international leads LaLiga in expected goals, or chances that he should be converting. With an expected goals rating of 11.8, it is poor for Barcelona when its star striker only has eight goals. By comparison, Jude Bellingham of Real Madrid and Artem Dovbyk of Girona are playing key roles in LaLiga success. Both have 14 goals despite having fewer expected goals. Missing the goals from Lewandowski is a major reason Barcelona has fewer goals than both of its rivals.

It is harder to skirt Xavi’s fault when looking at Barcelona’s defensive record. After 20 games last season, the Blaugrana conceded just seven goals. Three of those came in one game against Real Madrid at Camp Nou. After 20 games in the 2023/24 season, Barcelona has let in 24 goals. Five teams in LaLiga have a better defensive record. Injuries in the midfield and defense play a role in this campaign’s struggles. What remains true is that Xavi’s defense in the 2022/23 season was strong.