Xavi has started work as Barcelona‘s new manager, greeting the players and delivering his first team talk as he vows to return the stricken club to ‘the best in the world.’
With club president Joan Laporta looking on, the club legend, wearing a blue tracksuit, got to know his squad on his first day in the job.
It came after his emotional unveiling at the Nou Camp on Monday, where 10,000 supporters gathered to welcome the former midfielder home.
New Barcelona manager Xavi addresses his players on his first day in the job as club president Joan Laporta and club staff watch on
The new manager was keen to rouse his players as they try and recover from a poor start
Xavi greets Ousmane Dembele in the dressing room as he gets down to business at Barca
Xavi, 41, has signed a two-and-a-half year contract after his release clause at Qatari club Al-Sadd was met by Barcelona over the weekend.
Now the hard work begins for Ronald Koeman’s successor with Barcelona languishing ninth in the LaLiga table, some 11 points adrift of leaders Real Sociedad.
Their passage to the last-16 of the Champions League is also far from assured with two matches of the group stage remaining.
And there remains the small matter of handling an off-field crisis that sees Barcelona over £1billion in debt because of the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This meant they were unable to afford a new contract for their talisman – and Xavi’s former team-mate – Lionel Messi, who left for Paris Saint-Germain over the summer.
Samuel Umtiti is all smiles as he greets the new manager on Xavi’s first official day in charge
Xavi spent his first morning as Barcelona manager greeting Riqui Puig alongside Laporta
The new manager has plenty on his plate with Barcelona languishing ninth in LaLiga
Xavi embraces Nico Gonzalez as he prepares for his first training sessions as manager
Xavi speaks to striker Martin Braithwaite as he gets to know his players at the training ground
Xavi, however, promised to return the club to former glories at his unveiling and will now have the opportunity to work with some of his players during the international fortnight.
He called up seven players from the Barca B squad to make up the numbers during his first training session on Tuesday with so many players away representing their countries.
One of those he greeted on his first day on Tuesday was Ousmane Dembele, who has endured a disrupted season because of knee and hamstring injuries.
But Xavi said he believed the French winger ‘can be the best in the world in his position’ and wanted to make the renewal of his contract a ‘priority’.
Xavi admitted he had turned down the Brazil job to move back home, and vowed to try to emulate his mentor Pep Guardiola as he takes over at the Nou Camp.
Xavi was presented to supporters for the first time since taking over as Barcelona manager
There were thousands inside the Nou Camp to welcome Xavi home and he was taken aback
Presented to just under 10,000 supporters the 41-year-old said: ‘It’s true that we spoke with the Brazil Football Federation for me to be Tite’s assistant and then take over after the World Cup but my dream was always to coach Barcelona. I feel ready. This is the right moment.’
Asked by Sportsmail about the varying fortunes of returning football heroes as managers – with Zinedine Zidane and Pep Guardiola winning the Champions League at their clubs but Frank Lampard, Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Andre Pirlo struggling at theirs, Xavi said: ‘I know the club and what goes with it as well as some of the players.
‘I know I will be criticised. Barcelona is the most difficult club in the world because it’s not enough to win you have to play well. It’s no good winning 1-0 with a 90th minute goal. We have to pursue excellence. I hope I can be in the first group with Pep and Zidane and not in the other.’
Xavi and Laporta spoke to the crowd and lapped up their acclaim with the manager’s wife Nuria Cunillera beside him
Xavi then ceremoniously signed his contract on a table brought onto the pitch
Asked about Messi, Xavi made light of the absence of the club’s all-time greatest.
‘Of course I would like to have him,’ he said.
‘I would also like to have Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o but they are not here any more and we have to move forward with what we have.’
Addressing flag-waving fans at the Nou Camp, Xavi said: ‘I don’t want to get too emotional. So I can just tell you one thing – we are the best club in the world.
‘And we will work with the highest standards to have success. We cannot accept defeats or draws, we have to win every game.
Xavi posed with a shirt for photos and appeared to be amazed at the warm reception
‘We are going to work to try and win many titles, thank you very much, this is an emotional moment for me.
‘We need you. Especially during the bad moments. We are in a difficult situation as a club. We need you more than ever.’
His first match in charge will be the derby with Espanyol on November 20.