Rivaldo 'Convinced' Xavi Will Eventually Manage Barcelona

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2020

GUANGZHOU, CHINA - JULY 24:  Rivaldo attends Legend Star China Tour on July 24, 2018 in Guangzhou, China.  (Photo by Zhizhao Wu/Getty Images)
Zhizhao Wu/Getty Images

Xavi Hernandez said no to the Barcelona job, but Rivaldo believes the time will come when his former team-mate is in charge at the Camp Nou. The Brazilian doesn't have the same confidence in newly appointed Quique Setien, believing the ex-Real Betis boss was something of a last resort and is a man who can quickly and easily be dismissed. 

Rivaldo talked up Xavi's potential, per Ben Hayward of the London Evening Standard: "I'm convinced that Xavi will sign as coach of Barcelona in future and he is already preparing for it. I believe he rejected Barca's offer because he is not ready to assume the role at this early stage of his new job as a coach."

Those thoughts echo the words of Xavi himself, after the 39-year-old said he "didn't feel that this was a good time" for him to take over at Barca, per Sky Sports. While Xavi offered his support to Setien, Rivaldo remains unconvinced the man hired on Monday to replace Ernesto Valverde will be a success.

Instead, Rivaldo believes 61-year-old Setien was merely the last available candidate. Barca's former No. 10 thinks Setien lucked out thanks to the club's muddled handling of Valverde's departure, per Hayward: 

"At the end of the day, it's never a good thing to be negotiating with a new coach while the current one is still working for youI think Barca have hired Setien because, having unsuccessfully gone after Xavi and (Ronald) Koeman, there was no going back on sacking Valverde. It wouldn't have made sense to keep on Valverde after all that, so they had to go with their third choice. It wouldn't be a big problem if Barcelona have to change coach again."

Rivaldo's wary appraisal is shared by BBC Sport's Andy West:

Yet despite the naysayers, there is reason to believe Setien can succeed with Barca. For one thing, he plays a more expressive game than Valverde.

Setien made both Las Palmas and Betis entertaining to watch thanks to an artful brand of attacking football. His bold tactics will appeal to skilled stars such as Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann.

By contrast, Valverde was often considered pragmatic during a tenure where he won trophies but failed to fully convince. Valverde won a pair of La Liga titles and the Copa del Rey, but high-profile collapses against AS Roma and Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League damaged his credibility, and so did defeat to Valencia in last season's Copa final.

Setbacks like those led Barca to explore ways of bringing Xavi back to the Camp Nou. Currently managing in Qatar with Al Sadd, Xavi was still made an offer by Barca sporting director Eric Abidal and CEO Oscar Grau, according to Football Espana's Colin Millar.

The pursuit of Xavi was public, with Al Sadd general manager Turki Al-Ali confirming talks were being held, per another report from Hayward. Meanwhile, Guillem Balague wrote for BBC Sport how Xavi was wary about the 2021 presidential elections set to take place at Barca, while additional concerns about how much control he would have to build his team also loomed large.

Goal's Rik Sharma reinforced the idea of Barcelona being adrift as a club, describing it as "drowning" on the watch of president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Meeting the lofty expectations entrenched at Barca against the backdrop of uncertainty among the executive structure would have made this a daunting step up for Xavi, who is still learning his trade in the dugout. A player who was one of the smartest in the game when he used to boss midfield for the Blaugrana, is wise to take his time before again considering the ultimate job.

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