Xavi Talks Barcelona's Champions League Struggles, Camp Nou Coaching Ambition

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistMay 18, 2019

Sadd's midfielder Xavi reacts during the Amir Cup final football match between Al Sadd and Al Duhail at the Al Wakrah Stadium (Al-Janoub Stadium) in the Qatari city of Al Wakrah on May 16, 2019. - The 40,000-seater stadium was designed by the late Zaha Hadid and took it's inspiration from the sails of traditional dhow boats. (Photo by Karim JAAFAR / AFP)        (Photo credit should read KARIM JAAFAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez has pinpointed the team's failure to dominate matches the way they used to as one of the reasons for their recent struggles in the UEFA Champions League.

Barca have suffered disappointing European exits in the last two seasons at the hands of AS Roma and Liverpool from commanding 4-1 and 3-0 positions, respectively.

Xavi, who captained the side to their most recent Champions League win in 2015, told TV3 (h/t Marca):

"I think Barcelona have to dominate games again, otherwise it is impossible to win the Champions League.

"That's what history tells us as Barcelona first won the Champions League when they were winning La Liga and dominating matches.

"I think that now we aren't dominating [games] much."

If there's one man who knows all about dominating games for Barcelona, it's Xavi.

The 39-year-old is the club's record appearance-holder, having played 767 times for the Catalan giants. 

He won everything there is to win with Barca, including eight La Liga titles, four Champions League crowns and three Copas del Rey.

The Spaniard left the club for Al Sadd in 2015, and he played his final match for the Qatari outfit on Thursday:

B/R Football @brfootball

There will never be another like Xavi 👏 https://t.co/VEwIN7oMVR

Football writer Andrew Gaffney is an enormous admirer:

Andrew Gaffney @GaffneyVLC

@RobertoRojas97 @JPUccello @LowLimitFutbol 1) No. 1 2) Xavi 3) Xavi

Xavi's almost unrivalled technical ability, vision and intelligence helped Barcelona dominate matches from midfield, helping them not only enjoy the lion's share of possession, but also a degree of control over every contest.

The team has sorely missed his presence, and without Xavi dictating the play they have become increasingly reliant upon individual moments of brilliance from Lionel Messi or Luis Suarez.

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has predicted Xavi might take over at the Camp Nou one day:

Goal @goal

Is Xavi a future Barcelona manager? 🔵 🔴 https://t.co/GQnq7g8L5k

It's an ambition the player shares, but it will not be in the immediate future, it seems. He said:

"I don't see myself [coaching Barcelona] yet as I can't start my career as a coach of Barcelona's first team, it's not normal.

"I must prove myself as a coach and start from scratch. It would be too quick to go back to Barcelona, or to coach a La Liga team.

"It's obviously my objective to enjoy myself at Barcelona [as head coach one day], but I have to be very prepared and it's not the time yet."

Four of Barcelona's last five managers played for the club, so there's a strong chance Xavi will be given a shot at some point if he proves to be a good coach.

Three of those five—Pep Guardiola, Tito Vilanova and Luis Enrique—also managed Barcelona's B side prior to taking charge of the senior team, so that could provide a pathway for Xavi.

Barca would undoubtedly be delighted if he were able to pass on his knowledge to their academy talents, especially if it helps them bring through another talent who can perform a similar role.

In the meantime, Frenkie de Jong will arrive from Ajax this summer, and he shares some of the qualities that made Xavi such an asset.

Dutch football journalist Sjors van Veen hailed the 22-year-old, who was named Eredivisie Player of the Season after helping Ajax win the title:

Sjors van Veen @SjorsvVeen

Frenkie de Jong is insane. Dictates build-up from midfield, keeps the balance when his team attacks, presses when it's needed and has the engine to go full for 90 minutes. Barcelona did well signing him early.

Along with Arthur, who arrived from Gremio last year, De Jong will help Barcelona transition from Xavi and restore an element of control to their play.

While there's no guarantee it will lead to European success, it should make them better-equipped to avoid the collapses they suffered at Roma and Liverpool.