SOCCER | BARCELONA
Ferreira: Xavi was a genius as a player but, as a coach, nobody can guarantee that
While Xavi's former coach Jesualdo Ferreira highly praised the Spaniard's playing career, he said that the former midfielder’s success as a coach at Barcelona is not guaranteed
Jesualdo Ferreira, the last man to coach Xavi Hernández as a professional player, has given an interview to Portuguese outlet Record, in which he discusses the prospect of the Barcelona legend taking the reins at Camp Nou.
Ferreira coached Xavi during his final four seasons as a player at Qatari club Al Saad before the Spaniard hung up his boots in 2019. Xavi replaced Ferreira in the Al Saad bench in May 2019, where he remains amid increasing speculation that he is Barcelona’s number one choice as the permanent replacement for Ronald Koeman, who was sacked on Wednesday following El Blaugrana’s 1-0 defeat to Rayo Vallecano in Madrid.
And while Ferreira highly praised Xavi’s playing career and his general character, he said that the former midfielder’s success as a coach at Barcelona is not guaranteed should he eventually be appointed by president Joan Laporta.
“[Xavi] is someone who was an excellent player, above average. But beyond what he played, everything he managed to do as a high-level athlete is also to be praised. He has great character, a constant earnestness, an objective way of seeing things as a professional and he is happy with what he does,” said 75-year-old Ferreira, whose 40-year coaching career has included spells at Portugal’s Big Three: Benfica, Porto and Sporting.
“Above all, the image I have of him is that of someone who, after winning everything, played in Al Sadd as if he were a player who had just started his career. He was happy with the victories and suffered with the defeats. He looked like someone who had never won anything. This portrays the profile of a champion well.
"As a player at Al Sadd in the final part of his career, he was still a genius, but this doesn’t mean that he is one as a coach. No one can guarantee that. However, I felt that he was someone who was preparing to be a coach; he had that passion. In the space of two years, he has helped to rebuild Al Sadd again. We arrived almost at the same time. Together we built Al Sadd, we achieved all the titles and he continued that work.”
Xavi has so far enjoyed a successful career on the bench at Al Saad, but Ferreira said his credentials as a coach will only be tested if or when he takes over a club of Barcelona’s caliber.
"I think this challenge is crucial for him to understand if everything that was his past as a player, and the short period as a coach, are enough to take over a team like Barcelona. He has to get there. Only there and then will we understand if this Xavi is the continuation of what he was as a player and as a personality in world football,” he said.
“I think Xavi will triumph. He has in his head an image of Barcelona that has always been his model, it just won't be easy to carry that model to the field with new crop of players. It will be a challenge with these players, who were not the ones who built a playing model with him, to reach a remarkable level.”
Ferreira on Barcelona
Discussing the challenge for the club itself in the wake of Koeman’s sacking and amid the team’s mini-crisis on the pitch, Ferreira said: “The strength of the club will weigh heavily on what its performance will be, either with Xavi or with anyone else who arrives.
“Xavi would arrive not only as a coach, but as an idol because of what he has done at Barcelona. And what everyone hopes is that he can bring titles as coach of a new crop of players, without Iniestas, Eto'os and without a boy named Lionel Messi. Barcelona has, in its history, models and processes that need to be revitalized. They have to look for someone who can do that and they see Xavi as the right man to do so."