Xavi, Who Quit And Then Un-Quit And Then Was Maybe Gonna Get Fired, Is Now Fired

Barcelona club president Joan Laporta fired manager Xavi Hernández on Friday, a little over a week after reports surfaced Laporta’s intention to fire him, a month or so after the two of them jointly announced that Xavi would not be quitting at the end of the season, and roughly five months after Xavi declared that he would be quitting at the end of the season. This has all been very ridiculous.

By all reports, Xavi sealed his fate with his comments to the press ahead of a May 16 win over Almería, when he offered a pessimistic view of Barcelona’s near-term ability to compete with Real Madrid and at the top of Europe and, perhaps more fatally, seemed to pose the club’s budgetary limitations as a reason for the team’s shabby performance. That last bit, according to some reports in the Spanish press, infuriated Laporta and members of the Barça board, who signed off on mortgaging big chunks of the club’s future, in January 2022 and in subsequent transfer windows, to furnish Xavi with expensive players of his own choosing.

That alone probably does not account for Laporta’s evident sudden reversal on the matter of Xavi’s employment; even in a club as ineptly and operatically run as Barcelona, if an otherwise generally successful manager is getting fired behind comments as blandly factual as those, their job was already in grave danger, for reasons having as much to do with the ebb and flow of political capital inside the organization as with anything else. Having said that: If you particularly feel like diving into the slapstick Kremlinology on this one, Godspeed to you on your journey!

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In any event, by all accounts Laporta pretty much froze Xavi out of communications after that press conference, going so far as to hit him with the “I’m sick and can’t talk” excuse to duck an in-person meeting, while rumors swirled in the hysterical Spanish press and Barça sporting director Deco traveled to London to meet with Hansi Flick, Xavi’s presumed replacement. After Friday’s training session Xavi reportedly pressed the issue, at which point Laporta told him what the Spanish papers had been shrieking for a week: Sunday’s match against Sevilla would be his last as manager.

That’s a shabby way to treat anybody, but especially low in the case of a figure like Xavi, one of the most accomplished and beloved players in Barcelona’s history, who really did help bail the club out of a dire situation when he came aboard as Ronald Koeman’s replacement in November of 2021. Even if you believe (as I do) that Xavi wasn’t good enough to keep the job and that getting rid of him was the right move, removing him could have been done in any number of ways that would have been far more professional and far less humiliating.

Which in an ironic sort of way has wound up actually giving Xavi a better exit than he might otherwise have gotten or arguably deserved: Due to the week of shitty treatment and enforced professional limbo, Barça’s fans are mad at Laporta today, indignant on Xavi’s behalf, dwelling more on the lousy manner of his dismissal than on the many reasons to be glad he’s leaving. Like just about everything else with this clown-car of a club, that’s an accident, or anyway not part of any plan.

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