But it's also a merit that only few managers deserve, just ask Jose Mourinho. A dressing room full of egos, educated fans, high success standards, and a stipulating board room are only few of the obstacles that a coach might face. But what are the criteria used in choosing a Barcelona coach?
Born in Terrassa, Barcelona, Xavi is a product of the famous La Masia, having passed by almost all the youth teams, he made his way to the first team since he was 18, won several titles, in addition to the recognition of all his managers.
Rinus Michels, the inventor of "Total Football" lead Ajax for six seasons in which he managed to win four league titles, as well as three cups. He revolutionized the club, converting them from relegation battlers to title challengers. "The General"- his nickname back then- was well known for his preference of smart movement, and flexibility throughout all area's of the pitch. the core of his team was a confident, and gifted Johan Cruyff. a player capable of executing his ideas on the pitch with his ability to read a game.
Michels and Cruyff worked together for six years at Ajax, and later for two years at Barcelona, managing to compliment each other in a way that inspired these two clubs in their quests of achieving greatness. when a player spends much time with a coach, he ends up learning a lot, let alone a coach as genius as Michels, who was named as coach of the century by the FIFA in 1999.
"Both as a player and as a trainer there is nobody who taught me as much as him. I will miss Rinus Michels.. I always greatly admired his leadership. There is no one I learnt from more than him. I often tried to imitate him, and that's the greatest compliment one could give"- Johan Cruyff.
Michels's recognition can still be felt to our day. He managed to renovate the Dutch national side, leading them to becoming one of the football forces on the global stage. In fact his contributions benefited almost all coaches who often use the basics of his "Total Football" to evolve their team tactics.
Nobody could ever doubt that Johan Cruyff is the man who developed Pep Guardiola as a player at Barcelona and whose influence has left a permanent mark on his achievements, both as a player and a manager. He guided him since he was a teenager, showing him how the game should be played, even switching his role to a defensive midfielder capable of engineering attacking plays from the back.
From the day Cruyff hand picked Pep from the B team, and till the day he became an instrumental figure in his "Dream Team" it has been a long learning session for Guardiola. He managed to grab every aspect of his mentor's game and perfecting it when he became manager. He revolutionized "total football", even adding to a touch of his own by playing several players out of their positions, yielding an ever flexible team capable of taking down any football force in the world.
Johan Cruyff's use of intelligent, players with exquisite technical abilities instead of tall, physical players was a stroke of genius, but something that he owes to his tutor. Pep has successfully followed in the footstep of Johan Cruyff, achieving unprecedented success as manager to the extent that made us forget that he was as equally successful as a player.
When Pep Guardiola was reaching the end of his limelight, a certain Xavi Hernandez was carefully rising through the ranks of la Masia to deservedly book a permanent place in a somehow shaky Barca side. After several substitute appearances in the title-winning season of 1998-1999, he rose to prominence the next season after grabbing the chance of replacing the injury-struck Guardiola.
Although Louis van Gaal misused him by playing him as a pivote, he never looked back ever since. Xavi's splitting paces, along with his exceptional sense of dictating play always meant that he would benefit his team better when played higher up the pitch. Something that escaped the minds of Charly Rexach, Van Gaal, and Radomir Antic. He has always been a manager's player, capable of putting into effect his coaches' game plan with his unnatural ability to read a match.
Xavi has always been compared to Guardiola, as both were the product of the famous la Masia. something that bothered him and relatively hampered is progress. "People initially drew constant comparisons between me and Guardiola - I struggled to shake that off" Xavi told the famous Barcelona based graham hunter. He continued "to be valued and respected for the way I play was a real battle, especially when Van Gaal used us in the same position and compared us at press conferences. It was hard having to compete against my idol".
Whether he liked it or not, Xavi was Guardiola's successor, he was even played in his position to fill the void left initially by his injury, and later by his departure to Serie A. Having idolized Guardiola as a youngster, and being coached by his idol later on in his career says much about his qualities. he has always been able to impress at interviews with the way he analyzes plays, that's why so many people think he would one day become Barca coach.
Determined on and off the pitch, great thinker, and same style of play are few of the many similarities between the two men. Since the historic 2008-2009 season, Xavi has often been Guardiola's Joker on the pitch, gaining much in the process. Their relationship even reached a telepathic level where Xavi was able to know what needs to be done to change the course of a game without even approaching Pep on the sidelines. All that was the product of much time spent together since Van Gaal's days.
"I idealized everything about Pep - how he talked, his leadership on the pitch." This state has expanded to when Guardiola managed the team in the previous four successful season. Even unintentionally Xavi went on to gain much of Guardiola's characteristics.
"Xavi is a player who has the Barcelona DNA: someone who has the taste for good football, someone who is humble and someone who has loyalty to this club." Pep said when questioned about his successor's abilities. "from the first moment I saw him play, I knew he would become the brain behind Barcelona for many years to come. He plays very well, much better then I ever played, even when i was at my best" the coach continued". This leaves a huge burden on Xavi's shoulders. Not only was he his idol's equal, he was even better, and now after four years of witnessing his coaching abilities, will he be encouraged to follow in his footsteps and take the charge when he hangs his boots? A question that will remain unanswered, but not for long, it seems.
Even with an ever-present, worthy captain such as Puyol on the field, Xavi has always been his team's linchpin. Leading the midfield, building up play, partnering Don Andres, tutoring Thiago, feeding Messi, and deciphering Pep's instructions. His four assists in Barca's hammering of Real Madrid in the historic 6-2, his goal and assist in the Spanish Super cup 2-1 over Bilbao, and the same year's 2-0 win at the Bernabeu where he created both goals, are merely a showcase of his leadership abilities on the field, and the extent to which he could influence a game.
A natural Catalan, grew up watching Johan Cruyff's mind-blowing football, succeeded and topped Guardiola's performances, and finally worked with him first hand. So why not pursue a coaching career later on?
Xavi is better than Pep Guardiola ever was as a player and surely has the bases to emulate him as a manager.
Posted by: Hassan Chakroun , Columnist at 'Blaugrana Insight''