How the La Liga table would look if it began when Barcelona hired Xavi
On November 6, the football world finally heard the news it knew was coming: Barcelona had hired legendary midfielder Xavi to replace sacked manager Ronald Koeman and, they hoped, lead them into a new era.
It was not an easy task for the 42-year-old Catalan, who was so successful over his 17 years as a Barcelona player.
Since Xavi left Barca in 2015 to play for and then manage Qatari club Al Sadd, Barcelona have dug themselves into a deep financial hole. So deep, indeed, that they were forced to let the great Lionel Messi depart for pastures new last summer.
With Koeman at the helm, they were drifting on the pitch too.
Barcelona had won just four of their first 13 games of the season and, just as significantly, were lacking something of the identity that one has come to expect of the men in Blaugrana.
Bringing in Xavi was held up as the antidote to that. Despite his relative coaching inexperience, he is a man steeped in the vaunted Barcelona way, someone who grew up at the club in the era of Johann Cruyff’s Dream Team and played for it in the epoch of Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering pass masters.
He certainly knew what to say at his unveiling to strengthen the bond with fans, if it needed strengthening.
Standing on the Camp Nour turf, he stated: “This is the biggest club in the world and I’m going to work hard to reach your expectations. Barcelona can’t accept a draw or a defeat. We have to win all the games.
“I come prepared. My DNA didn’t change. We need to take charge, have the ball, create opportunities, be intense. We have a mission to rescue many things that were lost.”
They won Xavi’s first game, a morale-lifting 1-0 Catalan derby victory with a team much changed from the Koeman doom times.
Since, then, it has not all been plain sailing. There was a heavy loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, which resulted in Barcelona dropping in the Europa League for the first time since 2003-04.
Barca also lost their first Clasico of the Xavi era with a 3-2 defeat in the Super Cup, and suffered a shock exit in the Europa League against Eintracht Frankfurt.
But there are major signs of progress. Since Xavi’s arrival, Barcelona have played 23 La Liga games, winning 16, drawing four and losing three.
That would put them second in the La Liga table since November 18, just two points behind league leaders Real Madrid, and way ahead of the rest of the pack.
That uptick in form has been enough to see Barcelona shoot up to second in the table, looking set to finish runners-up, and Champions League qualification sewn up with three games to spare. That was Xavi’s remit when he arrived, and back in November a top-four finish was anything but guaranteed.
Barcelona’s 4-0 victory away at the Bernabeu in March was just the latest evidence that Xavi is making Barcelona a serious force to be reckoned with once again – and should they sustain this form over a first full season with Xavi at the helm next year, they’ll surely challenge Carlo Ancelotti’s champions.
Here, we’ve taken a full look at the La Liga table over the past six months, to see how Xavi has fared in comparison to his adversaries.
1. Real Madrid – 23 games, 54 points, +28 GD
2. Barcelona – 23 games, 52 points, +26 GD
3. Atletico Madrid – 23 games, 41 points, +11 GD
4. Villarreal – 23 games, 38 points, +19 GD
5. Sevilla – 23 games, 38 points, +8 GD
6. Real Betis – 22 games, 37 points, +15 GD
7. Athletic Bilbao – 23 games, 34 points, +4 GD
8. Celta Vigo – 22 games, 31 points, +7 GD
9. Getafe – 22 games, 31 points, +7 GD
10. Elche – 22 games, 28 points, -5 GD
11. Real Sociedad – 22 games, 28 points, -9 GD
12. Valencia – 22 games, 27 points, -5 GD
13. Osasuna – 22 games, 27 points, -7 GD
14. Cadiz – 22 games, 23 points, -7 GD
15. Levante – 22 games, 23 points, -10 GD
16. Granada – 23 games, 23 points, -11 GD
17. Espanyol – 15 games, 23 points, -13 GD
18. Rayo Vallecano – 22 games, 22 points, -9 GD
19. Mallorca – 22 games, 17 points, -24 GD
20. Alaves – 23 games, 15 points, -25 GD