Football

Are Barcelona Set To Fall Foul To Wave Of Nostalgia Sweeping European Football?

Are Barcelona Set To Fall Foul To Wave Of Nostalgia Sweeping European Football?

Barcelona never seem happy. At a club with such sky high expectations, falling even slightly short of that standard is deemed unacceptable.

Ernesto Valverde could be about to find this out the hard way. Since taking over as Barcelona boss in 2017 he has claimed two La Liga titles, with winning margins of 14 and 11 points in the 17/18 and 18/19 campaigns respectively.

Of course the Champions League results have been disappointing. They have managed to squander big leads against both Roma and Liverpool, displaying a remarkable mental frailty on both occasions. That may be grounds for dismissal at the Camp Nou, but they decided to stick with Valverde at the end of last season.

Now midway through the current campaign, he appears to be heading for the exit door. This is despite Barcelona currently sitting joint top of the league and having topped their Champions League group with ease.

There is a sense that the fanbase have exhausted their patience with Valverde. In order to get that group back onside it appears Barcelona are about to go down a route that has become a common trend at top European clubs in recent times.

Reports indicate that Xavi is set to take over. The legendary Barcelona midfielder has been cutting his managerial teeth in Qatar, where he took Al Sadd to the semi-finals of the Asian Champions League last season.

The player himself has confirmed that he has met with his former club about the position:

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I cannot say anything, they were here to talk to me and we discussed many things. Sorry I cannot give any more information.

I cannot hide it's my dream to coach Barcelona, I've said it many times in many interviews, everyone knows I support Barcelona from the bottom of my heart.

The wisdom behind discussing this meeting while Valverde is still in charge is questionable, but the reasoning behind approaching Xavi in the first place should face even more scrutiny.

Simply put, he has done little in terms of management to warrant consideration for such a high profile position. He has less than 12 months managerial experience under his belt having only appointed Al Sadd manager in May of last year.

The only trophy he won during this period has been the Qatari version of the community shield, although he has now also reached the Qatar Cup final. Their trip to the Champions League semi-final is impressive, but Xavi possesses one of the most high-priced squads in the Asia.

Clearly there is little on his managerial C.V. to suggest he is the obvious choice for Barcelona.

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Of course, this decision has little to do with that. Xavi is being given the job because he is Xavi, one of the key players in the greatest team in Barcelona's history. He came through the academy, spent nearly all of his playing days with the club, and is adored by the club's fans

To put it simply, he knows the club.

That is a phrase we have heard a lot of in recent times. Two of the most prominent examples of such a narrative have come in the Premier League.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was brought as Manchester United manager on a temporary basis last season in order to appease a fanbase that had turned toxic towards the tail end of the Jose Mourinho era. It worked, with his easy going nature and tendency to big up the club easing the tensions that were previously present.

His only managerial experience outside of Norway was getting relegated with Cardiff City in 2014.

After Ed Woodward insisted that no decision would be made about a permanent appointment until the end of the season, that long-held plan was quickly thrown out the window after the Norwegian put together a good run of results.

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That sort of reactive decision sums up the hierarchy at Old Trafford, and we all know how things have gone since. Solskjaer's 'we're Manchester United' narrative has grown tiresome, with the club hardly resembling the one he enjoyed so much success with during his playing days.

Statements such as this have now become the norm, but would hardly be accepted had they come from any other manager. He's out of his depth.

If it is becoming increasingly obvious that Solskjaer was probably not the right choice for United in the long-term, the Frank Lampard situation at Chelsea is far more difficult to judge.

He has shown flashes at Chelsea, although results have dipped in recent times after that initial boost. His youth policy, and the presence of a transfer ban, has certainly bought him more patience than may have been afforded to others.

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The fans certainly have not complained, despite lambasting Maurizio Sarri at this stage last season for achieving very similar results. Chelsea knew the fans would get behind Lampard and it bought them some good grace to cover up the failings of the club over the past couple years.

Lampard certainly cannot be judged yet, but just like Solskjaer it is clear he only got the job because of his links to the club.

If you were to judge it in golfing terms, his sole season at Derby County was about par. He took the most expensive squad in the division to the play-off final, which you imagine would have been the minimum requirement at the start of the campaign.

They did play some nice football along the way, but there is no way it would have been enough to earn him the Chelsea job had he been just another run-of-the-mill young English manager.

Things could well work out for him, but that isn't really the point. In an industry where there are incredible sums of money on the line, for a club to approach appointing managers in this manner seems incredibly foolish.

We have seen emotion trump logic with increasing frequency.

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Some have resisted this urge. Everton pursued Carlo Ancelotti despite pressure to have Duncan Ferguson's passion on the sideline become a permanent fixture.

Mikel Arteta's situation at Arsenal is slightly different in that he has been learning from one of the top managers in the history of the game for over three-and-a-half years. Still, they are two sides of the same coin.

Speaking of Pep Guardiola, it is obvious that Barcelona are hoping to replicate the success they had after he was appointed manager back in 2008. However, the two situations aren't all that comparable.

Guardiola had managed the club's 'B' team and had been the planned successor of Frank Riijkard. Not only this, but he had used the final years of his playing career in order to prepare as a coach.

He moved to Italy in order to learn about the game from a different perspective, while also spending six months in Mexico in oder to be mentored by Juan Manuel Lillo.

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Even Zinedine Zidane spent two years at Real Madrid Castilla manager before moving to first team level.

Xavi, meanwhile, went to Qatar for a final payday before moving into management in the country. Hardly the ideal environment to broaden your footballing knowledge.

Xavi was without doubt a brilliant footballing mind as a player and could turn out to be a success. He will command the respect of the dressing room, something that  hasn't always been the case for previous managers.

Still, you would imagine Barcelona would want to ensure the final years of Messi's peak are maximised. Taking this sort of gamble isn't the way to do it.

In a game where the margins are becoming ever tighter at the top level, nostalgia seems to be trumping all else in certain quarters.

SEE ALSO: Why Are Irish Managers Disappearing From Sight?

Gary Connaughton

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