Xavi has made no secret that he has not enjoyed his time at Camp Nou recently. It is true that all managers of top teams face scrutiny and pressure, but those working at the Catalan club say it is a particular burden.
Just ask Pep Guardiola. For many years, he was considered the best coach on Earth. He left Barcelona despite great success, partly due to the pressures he faced. Guardiola said recently: “In my experience, we cannot compare the pressure in England with the pressure in Spain. It’s a thousand times more difficult there. 6 press conferences a week, a lot of matches. The pressure you feel in Barcelona is incomparable to anywhere else.”
According to Xavi, Luis Enrique, another former coach, also did not rest when he was leading Barcelona: “It’s cruel and unpleasant. They make you feel useless every day. Pep told me, Valverde told me, I saw Luis Enrique suffering…”
There are many reasons that combine to lead to that difficulty, mainly due to high expectations, financial difficulties and internal politics.
High expectations are normal considering the club’s history. Barca fans have been accustomed to trophies and dominant performances for decades. Anything less than the top spot in La Liga is considered a failure. And beyond winning, fans expect the team to play attractive, possession-based football, adhering to the “Barca DNA” established by Johan Cruyff. This adds complexity to tactical decisions. Fans also want young homegrown players to play, but La Masia doesn’t always produce Lionel Messi or Andres Iniesta.
More recently, Barca has had a financial burden. Years of overspending have left the club deeply in debt, limiting transfer funds and making squad-building a fraught exercise. Meanwhile, the transfer market is increasingly competitive and inflated, making it more difficult to recruit top talent while still complying with financial constraints.
Finally, Barcelona also has internal politics and media problems. Factions within the board can create conflicting demands and make long-term planning difficult. Catalan media is famous for criticizing and closely monitoring coaches. Meanwhile, many Spanish media do not have a sympathetic view of Barcelona.
These elements combine to create a pressure cooker. Even the most successful managers struggle to deal with these demands, as evidenced by the departure of Pep Guardiola despite achieving incredible results. Will the next coach be luckier or, as Xavi said, will he never be comfortable at Camp Nou?
Thanh Vu | 12:36 February 3, 2024