Reports from Spain have claimed that Barcelona president Joan Laporta wants club legend Xavi Hernandez to take over as first team manager if Ronald Koeman does not win La Liga, after bottling a chance to go top on Thursday.
Deportes Cautro broke the story on Friday afternoon in Spain, less than 24 hours after the Blaugrana’s hopes for a domestic double were derailed.
Previously in a comfortable predicament, where they could merely draw with leaders Atletico Madrid and win five other relatively easy fixtures in the 2020/2021 season to lift the crown, Barcelona then slipped up on a huge banana skin when losing to Granada at home for the first time in club history.
All seemed to be going to plan in the early evening kick-off fixture when Antoine Griezmann was fantastic on the edge of the box and shimmied to set Lionel Messi up in the 22nd minute.
Yet come full time, the Argentine was left to rue an easy missed chance later in the second half, as Darwin Machis and Jorge Molina efforts in the 63rd and 79th minutes sank the Catalans down to third place.
To top a miserable evening, Koeman was also sent off by referee Gonzalez Fuertes for insulting the fourth official, and will be absent from the dugout in Barca’s next two must-win clashes with Valencia on Sunday and Atleti on May 8.
“I don’t get it at all. I didn’t say anything, I didn’t insult him. I spoke to the fourth referee and he disrespected me,” Koeman insisted post-match.
“I was not wrong, because according to the referee’s report I disrespected the fourth referee and for me, it is not like that. A lack of respect is insulting. I haven’t used ugly words, not once. If they’re going to put things I haven’t said I’ll have to do something. I don’t understand,” he insisted.
On the defeat itself, Koeman said: “We have to accept that we lost today. It is really tough because it was a good opportunity to win tonight.”
“The defeat was mainly due to a lack of concentration in defense during Granada’s two goals. It is a very disappointing result. It is a very hard defeat because we controlled our own destiny, but we still have five games left.”
Yet according to Deportes Cuatro, Laporta is tired of the excuses from the Dream Team legend and is already seeking his replacement.
In short, after first preference Julian Nagelsmann signed with Bayern Munich this week, the new president has now turned his attention towards Xavi Hernandez.
Already contacting him through text message and a phone call, Laporta has reportedly asked the 41-year-old not to renew his contract with current outfit Al-Sadd in Qatar – even though he allegedly has a ‘Barca clause’ in his contract allowing him to leave and take over the reins at his boyhood club immediately.
If true, this is the second approach that the La Liga giants have made for Xavi since the turn of the decade.
In early 2020, then-sporting director Eric Abidal and Laporta’s predecessor Josep Bartomeu wanted him to supplant Ernesto Valverde, whose firing caused a changing room revolt among the likes of Messi and Luis Suarez.
But in wishing to start from scratch and not midway through a season, the World Cup winner turned down the role amid suspicion that, like Messi, he didn’t trust Bartomeu.
Quique Seiten, their fourth choice, took over instead. And following an 8-2 humbling to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, he barely made it to August when Koeman stepped in.
In the run-up to this year’s election after Bartomeu stepped down in October, Xavi was also expected to align himself with Laporta’s main rival at the polls, Victor Font.
But in failing to come out and endorse Font, Xavi indirectly threw victory into the lap of Laporta, who seems to have put past allegiances aside and now wants the Catalan to succeed Koeman if he bottles the title race.