Xavi has insisted that his replacement as Barcelona head coach next season must have “Barca DNA”, in keeping with the club’s long-standing traditions.
The 44-year-old delivered Barcelona’s first La Liga title since 2019 last season, but results have tailed off in 2023/24 and he announced in January his intention to step down in the summer. He described the experience of being Barca coach “cruel” and “unpleasant”.
The Catalans are yet to settle on a successor and Xavi has refused to give his opinion on the kind of traits and attributes that person should have, other than one very important thing.
“I don’t know,” he said when asked at a press conference ahead of facing Getafe. “In the end, it’s Deco and the president who have to decide. [But] he should maintain the line of Barca DNA.”
That ‘Barca DNA’ has often been a theme of coaches hired at Camp Nou. Xavi himself spent 24 years at the club from the age of 11 until he retired as a player in 2015.
Pep Guardiola was also a former player before becoming manager, while Johan Cruyff helped revolutonise the club with his vision as a player before later returning as coach at a low point in their history in 1988 and then ushering in the ‘Dream Team’ era.
In recent years, Luis Enrique, the late Tito Vilanova, Ernesto Valverde and Ronald Koeman have all possessed it too. Less successful appointments like Quique Setien and Gerardo Martino had no prior connection to the club before being recruited.
Frank Rijkaard, winner of Barca’s 2006 Champions League title is an exception of the rule. However, his roots at Ajax and having worked under visionary coach Rinus Michels in the Dutch national team ensured he was already well versed in similar principles that define Barca DNA.
If Barca are now looking for that DNA in their search for Xavi’s successor, it exists in Mikel Arteta, Thiago Motta, current B team coach Rafael Marquez and even Jose Mourinho, but not in the likes of Roberto De Zerbi, Thomas Tuchel, Hansi Flick or Julian Nagelsmann.
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