The quest for Xavi’s replacement .  



When Xavi left Barca in 2015 after leading the club to their historic treble under Luis Enrique , nobody at that time thought that Barca will miss Xavi to this extent. Everything seemed to be fine and well managed the time Xavi left Barca. Barca  signed Ivan Rakitic from Sevilla just before 2014/15 season started and manager Luis Enrique played the midfield trio of Rakitic – Busquets – Iniesta for majority of the season. But Xavi Hernandez had role to play in that season on and off the field. Whether to sort out Messi-Lucho issue or to give control to Barca midfield coming off the bench , Xavi was vital throughout that season. He played his last game as a Barca player against Juventus in a Champions League final against Juventus coming in as a substitute to Andres Iniesta. Barca won that match and Xavi lifted the Champions League trophy as the club’s captain. He then said goodbye to Barca and joined Qatari side Al Sadd.

The replacement of Xavi Hernandez has always been a concern for Barca. He was the heart of the team so replacing him was not an easy task. Pep Guardiola first tried this. Cesc Fabregas was signed from Arsenal in 2011 with a view that he would  learn and adapt to Xavi’s role. But the move backfired. Cesc never bothered to learn or adapt to the role despite knowing club from inside and outside as he was a La Masia graduate. Later he was sold to Chelsea on arrival of Luis Enrique. As an immediate plan , club signed Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic from Sevilla who was frequently used by Lucho to form a midfield trio of Rakitic – Busquets – Iniesta. Xavi Hernandez contributed mostly from the bench. Xavi Hernandez had already left but there were no replacements on the deck. But the real trouble began after the start of 2015/16 season. Barca was unable to sign any player due to transfer ban. Arda Turan was signed but he neither matched Xavi’s profile nor he could play before January. It was very difficult to fill the void left by Xavi. All of Messi , Iniesta and Busquets were forced to adjust their style to fill the gap left by Xavi.

Thanks to their famed youth academy , La Masia , Barca got Xavi for free but after his departure , the club has already spent millions to find his replacement. A charismatic player , who was the heart of the most successful Barca and Spanish team , it has already proven tough to find his replacement for both national team and most importantly Barca. Since last two season, the player of Xavi’s profile was only the missing puzzle in the Barcelona midfield. After his departure , Barcelona has signed four midfielder for his replacement , but all of them have failed to prove themselves. The quest of finding Xavi’s replacement is still going on but honestly , nobody seems to find a spark. Barca have now changed their footballing philosophy , most of the key players have already adjusted themselves but , if anything is missing, its Xavi Hernanadez presence in Barca’s midfield.

From Andre Gomes or Arda Turan , or the latest addition Paulinho or even Denis Suarez, Barca’s midfield arrival after Xavi’s departure shows that the club is struggling to find his replacement.

Barca has spent more than €110 millions on the midfield signing after Xavi’s departure but are still struggling to find the player who will execute Xavi’s role in the team. Arda Turan arrived from Atletico Madrid for the price of €34 Million Euros but he never adapted to Barca type of football. He is already termed as a Barca flop and now is in the verge of joining his boyhood club Galatasaray. The Turk failed to impress both manager and fans both on his first and second spell. Then in the summer of 2016 , Barca signed Portuguese international Andre Gomes from Valencia. He was signed for the initial fee of €35 Million but it can reach upto €70 Million including his famous Ballon D’or clause. He was trusted by manager Luis Enrique and was given frequent game time. But he too failed to keep the mark. He was impressive in few games but was also heavily criticized by media and fans for his overall poor performance. One of the reason of his poor performance might be Luis Enrique deploying him in multiple position week in and out. New manager Ernesto Valverde also seems to have faith in him and already made public that Gomes will have specific role to play in this coming season.

The another addition in the same summer in Barca midfield was Denis Suarez. After being impressive in Sevilla and Villareal , Barca decided to sign him back. Even praised by Xavi himself as the player closest to his profile in Barca squad , Denis Suarez began the season with imressive form. Despite giving good performance , he was undermined by manager Luis Enrique who frequently preferred to use Gomes despite him showing poor form. Denis seemed to be under backup plan this season too as Ernesto Valverde hasn’t used him too much during pre-season tour in USA. He was also on the bench during the second leg of Super Classico even though he impressed in the first leg after coming from the bench. And now the latest surprise addition. , the Brazilian Paulinho is signed from Chinese club Guanzhao Evergrande for the fee of €40 million. He is not a player that suits traditional way of Barca’s football but is actually a muscular box to box midfielder . His profile was unimaginable in Barca’s shirt  few years before but now, he is the fourth most expensive player in the history of Barcelona. It is still unknown what will he bring to Barcelona as he played in relatively unknown league but was still impressive in Brazilian national team under Tite.

And finally , the most important factor about the above mentioned signing is none of them are even closer to Xavi’s profile and they are clueless about Barca’s system . Denis is closer but he was unused and not trusted as his standards. You cannot replace Xavi directly. Its a process and he is irreplacable. But you can always look to the profile similar to him , who can atleast execute his role in the middle of the park. Barca need to sign that midfielder who is comfortable with the possession , can pass between the lines and is press resistant. All the above mentioned players including Rakitic do not belong to this profile. The nearest option now left is Jean Seri. Seri  matches the profile of Xavi to some extent and can solve half of our existing problem easily if adapts  to the squad properly and quick as well. Well, we’ve already kicked our campaign off, despite the void, let’s hope the boards does something as quick as possible to fill the void and keep us on the winning race.


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