“Xavi yes, Laporta no” – Barcelona, ​​a club divided after a surreal week


Shortly before the referee blew the half-time whistle during Barcelona’s 3-0 win over Rayo Vallecano, Estadi Olimpic fans Lluis Copmanys began chanting “Xavi si, Laporta no” – Xavi yes, Laporta no.

It was the first chant dedicated to head coach Xavi during the match and a two-minute ovation followed for the former midfielder in the second half. There were a few whistles, but the majority of the crowd seemed to support Xavi. He didn’t react.

“I’m not looking for that (chants against President Joan Laporta),” Xavi said. “I want unity, consensus. I didn’t like it. I’m thinking about building a team. We are a group and even more so at Barça. It was unpleasant and I hope we can fix it.

Barca were looking to confirm second place in La Liga and a €6 million ($6.5 million; £5.1 million) place in next year’s Supercopa de Espana (the equivalent Spanish of the English Community Shield) with a victory – but that didn’t seem relevant on Sunday.

Robert Lewandowski scored an early goal after a superb cross from Lamine Yamal and a three-minute brace from Pedri took the game away from Rayo. But the real interest was what would happen after the match.

To understand why, it’s worth recapping a surreal week in Barcelona.

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On Wednesday, Xavi gave a press conference to preview his team’s midweek match at Almeria. During that appearance, he offered a more realistic view of the situation at Barcelona which Laporta said was at odds with the coach’s optimistic speech in agreeing to reverse his decision to leave this summer. (The night the deal was done is known as “sushi night” in Barcelona, ​​as Laporta and company ordered sushi to his house to celebrate keeping Xavi).

Leaks quickly followed claiming Laporta – Xavi’s last defender on the board along with vice-president Rafael Yuste – was angry with Xavi over the comments before the Almeria game. It seemed like this was the final straw for Xavi after many other situations and his continuity was in doubt.

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Laporta and Xavi at last month’s press conference announcing the coach would stay (Adria Puig/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, sources from Xavi’s technical team – who, like all those cited in this article, asked to remain anonymous to protect their relationships – have said Athleticism the coach had not been informed of any of this or of the doubt about his position. They said he was already planning the next season with athletic director Deco.

Reports continued to emerge from the club without any statement refuting them – something Barca have regularly done this season to deny or clarify reports on other matters.

Then Xavi appeared in front of the press again as his team prepared for Sunday’s match against Rayo. He told them he was “very excited” to continue managing the team next season and insisted Laporta had given him no indication he was in danger.

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At the Lluis Companys, Xavi stepped onto the pitch with a serious look. He had not yet spoken to Laporta, although they had exchanged a few messages. The president had said that it was not the right time to speak – which was Xavi’s wish – because Deco was in Portugal for personal reasons and Laporta had to travel to Zaragoza for the Copa de la Reina final, where the Barcelona women’s team beat Real Sociedad. 8-0.

Athleticism asked members of the coaching staff just before the match if they had received any news but they said no. Laporta and Deco were in the presidential box after being absent for the trip to Almeria.

There were several signs of a strange atmosphere.

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Barcelona players tried to present a united front (Javier Borrego/Europa Press via Getty Images)

Lewandowski has been much more insistent in front of goal than in recent times – perhaps with a view to winning the La Liga top scorer award or sending a message to Xavi after replacing him in recent matches.

The Polish striker scored in the second minute and then asked his teammates to join him in a collective hug, giving the impression of a united dressing room. As Yamal walked away from that embrace, he waved his arms toward the fans to call for their support – already one of the leaders of this team at 16 years old.

The fans were the ultimate barometer of the events of the past week. Members of the “Penyes” (supporters groups) spoke clearly to show that they adhere to Xavi’s message rather than Laporta’s. Their cries against the president showed that they were fed up with the board’s decisions, which they saw as damaging the club’s image.

Once the match was over, Xavi left more quickly and with a more serious expression than usual. He wanted to finish the post-match interviews and press conference as soon as possible to talk to Laporta and Deco about what was happening – something he had wanted to do since Friday.

“At Barça there is always noise,” he told reporters, visibly more upset than in his previous appearances. “There is a lot of media, it is often unpleasant and cruel. They make you feel very small but you have to accept that, it’s about winning matches.

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According to club sources, Xavi went to meet Laporta after the press conference. The president congratulated him on his second place and his victory. It was a quick conversation in which Laporta said he was not feeling well after driving back from Zaragoza the day before with a cold and fever.

In this brief conversation, the president postponed the planned meeting until the end of the season. The idea is for this to happen after Saturday’s women’s Champions League final against Lyon in Bilbao and the men’s match against Sevilla on Sunday, the last of the season.

Xavi will have to wait another week to know the result of one of the most eventful days in Barça’s recent past. In the space of four months, he announced his resignation, agreed to continue, participated in an official act in which he, Laporta and Deco shook hands and now appears to be able to leave.

At halftime, the Catalan group Els amics de les arts performed a song from 2012 that could not be more in tune with the situation in Barcelona.

“Viewed in perspective, it’s very clear to him that he wouldn’t have been happy here,” the song says. “But with time, which heals everything, everything will fall into place.”

Time, that’s what Laporta asked from Xavi, to let the problem arise. But it remains to be seen whether this will heal and put everything back in its place in a divided club.

(Top photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)


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