To say that Barcelona are back would be some overstatement, even after 12 goals and three wins in their last three. Yet, what can be said; what can be justified is that Xavi has them on the road to recovery. The club legend has, at the very least, began to prod the sleeping giant in hope of galvanising its awakening.
Perhaps what we are seeing is a side no longer in mourning at the loss of Lionel Messi, who was forced to swap Catalan for Paris last summer. We are seeing new heroes emerge; new poster boys who are not edging closer and closer to retirement, but instead closer to their prime.
Barcelona are Far From ‘Back’, but Xavi Has Them on the Road to Recovery at the Very Least
A Sudden Turn for the Better
Ironically, transfers have helped a club seemingly in financial ruin. Particularly the arrival of Ferran Torres for £46.7 million from Manchester City in a deal that suggested anything but broke. Financial logistics aside, however, it remains smart business for now, as is the case with Adama Traore and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. All three arrivals have played their part since January, and will only continue to do so.
When Xavi arrived, not many really knew what to expect. All some knew was that it was a long time coming, and it couldn’t be any worse than Ronald Koeman’s spell. And, they were right. Although Xavi’s arrival didn’t initiate an instant turnaround, with losses to Real Betis and Athletic Club, and draws against Benfica, Espanyol and Granada epitomising that, since February, significant strides towards improvement have been made.
Highs and Lows
Exiting the Champions League Group Stage, and, therefore, dropping down to the Europa League for the first time since it was called the UEFA Cup in 2003/04 was a low point. But, since then, many positives have been on show for all to see.
The Napoli tie is one which particularly stands out. This is a side sitting top of Serie A; it was quite easily Xavi’s biggest test yet; a test he passed with flying colours, as his side defeated the Italian champions-elect 5-3 over two legs. For the first time after that victory, many began to take notice with praise rather than horrified glimpses at Barcelona.
As things stand in La Liga, the Catalan giants sit fourth, level on points with Atletico Madrid, having played a game less. In regards to the title, it must be forgotten for now. Instead, Barcelona must focus on gaining a place in the Champions League for the sake of their finances, if not at the very least for their place amongst Europe’s elite.
The way Xavi’s new look side has started, top four should be easily achieved. Already, Aubameyang has reminded everyone of his European pedigree, scoring five goals in seven games. Meanwhile, Traore has assisted four goals in six, and Torres has registered four goal involvements in seven.
It is beginning to click into place for Xavi and Barcelona, who may have a long road ahead to truly return to their giant-like selves, but are, at the very least, on their way.
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