Barcelona’s selection of club legend Xavi Hernandez as a manager is no longer news. Like Xavi, Koeman played at the Nou Camp before becoming a manager. The Dutch manager favors practicality above Barcelona’s total football ethos.
Xavi will aim to restore Barcelona’s glory. Xavi, a tiki-taka master, has terminated Koeman’s digression, at least for now. The Spaniard won seven trophies in two seasons, with Al Sadd utilizing a similar style as Pep Guardiola at Barcelona.
Koeman and prior managers signed and employed players who matched their systems; therefore, some of these players may not fit Xavi’s idea.
On that note, here are five Barcelona players who could suffer under Xavi:
Number 5: Sergi Roberto
Sergi Roberto, one of the club’s four current captains, is a product of the renowned La Masia academy. There were hopes that he would one day become a midfield maestro like Xavi for Barcelona.
The versatile Spaniard quickly became Luis Enrique’s go-to right back at the club, where he quickly established himself. Following managers used Roberto as a safety net at right-back, keeping the defense tight without doing too much upfield.
Fullbacks who can bomb up and down the flanks are needed in modern positional football, which Sergio Dest and Oscar Mingueza are better suited to. Roberto’s switch to full-back hampered his progress as a midfielder, and if he were to be considered for the position now, he would be behind a slew of others.
Under Xavi, Roberto’s minutes at Barcelona would be limited, and at 29, he may decide to leave. He is also nearing the end of his contract at Camp Nou.
Number 4: Phillippe Coutinho
Philippe Coutinho, a Brazilian midfielder signed from Liverpool for a fee of £142 million, has failed to make an impact at Barcelona. The 29-year-best old’s season came on loan at Bayern Munich, where he won the UEFA Champions League. Coutinho has been plagued by injuries since joining Barcelona and has yet to secure a starting spot at Camp Nou.
Coutinho belongs to a dying breed of footballers: the traditional no. 10 position. To contribute to the team, he relies on his vision, passing range, and shooting ability rather than his dribbling or pace. When fit, he frequently played on the wing for Ronald Koeman, but he could also be seen drifting infield on a regular basis.
For Xavi’s system to work, he would need an out-and-out winger or wide forward. Barcelona’s preferred options in the future would most likely be Ansu Fati, Ousmane Dembele, and Memphis Depay, limiting Coutinho’s playing time.
Number 3: Martin Braithwaite
Martin Braithwaite is another player who could be impacted by Xavi’s arrival at Barcelona. By any standard, Denmark striker Braithwaite is not an ideal Barcelona player. Following the injury to Ousmane Dembele in February 2020, the club was forced to turn to him for emergency attacking cover.
As recently as 2018, the 30-year-old was playing in the English second tier with Middlesbrough, and he is not known as a goal machine anywhere. The Danish international is an intriguing player, and his tenacity and grit are two positive aspects of his game.
His inability to play due to injury would make it difficult for him to have a future at Barcelona under Xavi. If he was available from the start, he would have a better chance of getting regular minutes. When he returns from his leave, he will be behind several others in the pecking order, which will undoubtedly affect the action at the club.
Number 2: Clement Lenglet
Clement Lenglet has played only 284 minutes in all competitions for Barcelona this season. Since he arrived from Manchester City, the Frenchman has fallen out of favor with Ronald Koeman, with Spanish youngster Eric Garcia preferred in defense. It is unlikely that Lenglet’s situation at the club will change due to Xavi’s appointment.
In recent appearances for the club, the 26-year-old has proven to be error-prone, making several costly mistakes. According to reports, the club attempted to sell the defender during the summer transfer window but could not find a club willing to pay his wages.
Xavi would prefer defenders who can play out from the back. With Garcia, Ronald Araujo, Gerard Pique, and Oscar Mingueza all coming from La Masia, it’s easy to predict which defenders will see more action for Barcelona under Xavi.
Number 1: Luuk de Jong
Barcelona made a surprise loan signing of Dutch striker Luuk de Jong on deadline day this summer. Ronald Koeman, Xavi’s predecessor, signed the 31-year-old.
When it comes to quality, De Jong ranks alongside Braithwaite. Because of his playing style, the Dutchman is a square peg in a round hole at the club. Koeman approved his purchase because of his aerial talent, despite his lack of footwork. Xavi may not value a player with his skillset working for him at Barcelona.
Under Xavi, his loan term won’t be renewed and he’ll get minimal minutes before returning to Sevilla.