Winning LaLiga essential to ‘bring stability’ to club
9:45 AM ET
Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez has made winning LaLiga this season a priority in a bid to “bring stability” back to the Catalan club, accepting he is under pressure to deliver success after a summer of spending.
Barca have won just one trophy in the last three seasons — the Copa del Rey under Ronald Koeman in 2021 — and have been knocked out of the Champions League in the group stages in each of the past two years.
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)
The club have also been fighting financial problems, with LaLiga’s financial fair play rules leading to the departure of Lionel Messi 18 months ago, but results domestically have improved under Xavi after eight new signings arrived for more than €150million ahead of the current campaign.
With the league due to restart later this month following a break for the World Cup, Barca sit top of the table, two points clear of reigning champions Real Madrid, after winning 12 of their 14 matches and losing just once.
“LaLiga tops our priorities,” Xavi told Barca TV on Tuesday. “We have the [Spanish] Supercopa in January and the Copa del Rey and the Europa League coming up too, but the league marks the season.
“If we win LaLiga, for example, it will be a good season. If we only win the Supercopa, we have come up short. We want to win everything, but LaLiga will give the club and the project stability.”
Barca have been forced to focus on the league following their Champions League exit, but Xavi said they will take the Europa League seriously after being drawn against Manchester United in the playoff round.
“It makes me angry not to hear the Champions League music, but the Europa League is a trophy, one this club has not won, and if we go far the fans will be up for it,” Xavi added.
Xavi’s Barcelona side are top of LaLiga, two points clear of reigning champions Real Madrid. Silvestre Szpylma/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images
“I would sign for a Liga-Europa League double! The club made a huge effort in the summer, with the famous levers [selling assets to fund signings], and we have to back that up on the pitch. The pressure in that sense is on me and I accept it. I am aware that we must win trophies this season.”
While Barca have experience throughout their side in the form of top scorer Robert Lewandowski and captain Sergio Busquets, their hopes of success are also dependent on the development of young players.
Pedri and Gavi, 20 and 18 respectively, are already regulars under Xavi and the Barca coach said they are better than him and Andres Iniesta — who helped Spain win the 2010 World Cup and Barca win multiple Champions Leagues — were at the same age.
“When I was 20 and when Andres was 20, we were not at the same level as Pedri and Gavi are right now,” Xavi said. “They are superior to us at 20, well, Gavi is only 18 still!
“They are doing more in first team at 20 and 18 than we were. But there is Eric Garcia as well, Ansu [Fati] … How Gavi competes, the passion he has, for me is a guarantee of success. We were not at their level.”
Barca return to league action on Dec. 31 with the Catalan derby against Espanyol at Camp Nou. Xavi expects to have everyone available for the game, with Ronald Araujo, Sergi Roberto and Franck Kessie all recovering from injuries, and he tipped Fati for a big second half of the season.
“Luis Enrique doesn’t give anyone anything for free, so there is a reason he took Ansu to the World Cup,” Xavi said. “I think, from now on, he will be more important for us.
“It has been a progressive process for him to return from his injury. But I am really happy for him. He works hard and has a great attitude, so in these six months he has to be important for the team.”