At a club like Barcelona, failure to compete at the highest level is considered a massive crisis. The Catalan club has long since been hailed as being among the very best in Europe. However, if recent displays are addressed, Barcelona certainly do not look the part.
Two games in a row, against Real Sociedad and Shakhtar Donetsk, Barcelona have struggled. Prior to those games, La Blaugrana even succumbed to a defeat in the El Clasico. Ultimately, the team is not doing rather well in any competition.
As per the coach himself, Xavi Hernandez, Barcelona have to overcome their mental hurdles. This issue is mainly related to their own heads rather than any physical limitations or technical deficiencies. Recently, even a specialist Sports Psychologist seemed to agree with Xavi on this.
Interestingly, however, this will not be the first time Xavi will have to turn his team’s gloom around. Last season, Barcelona were also in a very disheartening position. Three key losses to Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and Inter Milan were truly devastating for the Catalan giants.
Yet, what Xavi did next completely turned that season around. As highlighted by SPORT, Xavi chose to count on one of his dear friends to come in and address the team. That particular man was none other than Juan Carlos Unzue.
A former player of FC Barcelona as well as a goalkeeping trainer and assistant coach for the club, Unzue has a deep connection to Barcelona. Moreover, those within Barcelona hold a specific admiration for him. Having been diagnosed with Motor Neurone disease in 2020, the former Blaugrana was restricted to a wheelchair.
Xavi counted on his arrival to bring up some sparks from within the team. He was asked to address the Barcelona players and he did so by reminding them of the position they are in. Privileged enough to not just play for FC Barcelona but also possess the ability to lighten up the lives of millions of fans who cheer them on:
“What I wanted to convey to the team is the ability footballers have to uplift the spirits of so many people, to make them smile through our passion. That is fantastic. When you win, journalists often ask players what the key was. It’s always said to be unity.”
He even addressed the fact that he simply conveyed what he felt and he hoped it would help Xavi. His words of wisdom were undoubtedly felt by those Barcelona players:
“I simply conveyed what I felt. I thank Xavi for thinking that I could help during a difficult moment and that what I was going to convey could contribute to the team. I don’t know if I succeeded, but I’m happy that the season ended well.”
Unzue also highlighted how important it is for a squad to behave like a family. It seems easy to feel united when winning, but a side’s character truly shows when they have to face defeat:
“But the strength in the locker room is not demonstrated in victories but in defeats; and that’s what this squad achieved. And it’s proving that this team is a great family.”
Barcelona would then go on to successfully complete one of their most memorable streaks in recent years. Within the next 21 games, Barcelona enjoyed 18 wins and only suffered a loss and two draws.
This season, Xavi is once again at a point where Barcelona needs a surge. It will be interesting to see how the coach manages it, but there is evidence that he has managed it before. Faith and responsibility both lie on Xavi’s shoulders, but he must act fast for the sake of the club’s season.