Xavi named Barcelona coach: Will the former star be another luckless 'legend' on his return?

By Sports Desk November 06, 2021

It's felt inevitable that Xavi would return to Barcelona at some stage and the time has finally come.

The former midfielder has agreed to take over from Ronald Koeman, embracing both a financial and sporting crisis at Camp Nou that sees the team ninth in LaLiga and more than €1.2billion in debt.

Given his pedigree as a player for the club, where he won 25 major trophies, and the fact he has delivered three cups and a Qatar Stars League title in his time in charge of Al Sadd, you would be forgiven for thinking Xavi could have chosen to bide his time and wait for a more opportune moment to take the job.

Yet here we are, with another of Europe's grandest sides appointing a club legend. It's a move that often resonates well with a disillusioned fan base, but recent history tells us a star playing career often counts for little when it comes to life in the dugout at the elite end of football.

There are a fair few examples of ex-players heading back to their old clubs in the past few years – and to different levels of success...

 

Mikel Arteta (Arsenal): Jury's out

When Arsenal lost their first three league games of the season without scoring a goal, it looked like the Arteta experiment might have run its course.

Now on a nine-game unbeaten run in all competitions, buoyed by a derby defeat of Tottenham and a manager of the month award for September, it's beginning to look as though the former captain might just have got things on track at Emirates Stadium.

Winning the FA Cup last year was also a big feather in Arteta's cap, but there's still a sense that the next bad result is just around the corner. After all, he lost 20 of his first 60 league games in charge; it took Arsene Wenger 116 matches to reach that number.

Ronald Koeman (Barcelona): Failure

There is no question Koeman stepped into the breach at Barca at a terrible time, with an institutional crisis ongoing and the team having lost 8-2 to Bayern Munich in Quique Setien's final game in charge. He was chosen for his estimable record as a player at the club, and he did at least deliver Copa del Rey success last term.

Yet as soon as new president Joan Laporta admitted before this season that he was basically only keeping Koeman because there wasn't another option, the writing was on the wall.

Uninspiring football and a troubling run of results that culminated in a first loss to Rayo Vallecano since 2002 forced Laporta into action – he sacked Koeman on the flight home, if reports are to be believed. In the end, his contribution as a player offered little protection.

 

Niko Kovac (Bayern Munich): Short-term success

Kovac took over from Jupp Heynckes before the start of the 2018-19 season, becoming only the fourth former Bayern Munich player to become head coach (after Soren Lerby, Franz Beckenbauer and Jurgen Klinsmann).

Trophies were not a problem: Kovac won the DFL-Supercup 5-0 against old club Eintracht Frankfurt in his first match in charge, and the Bundesliga title and DFB-Pokal followed. Nobody at Bayern had ever won the double as both player and coach before.

It all turned a bit sour in 2019-20, though. Bayern won just five of their opening 10 league games and were thrashed 5-1 by Frankfurt in November, at which point Kovac and the club agreed the time was right to part ways.

Frank Lampard (Chelsea): Failure

Chelsea's record goalscorer only had one season of experience at Championship side Derby County before being entrusted with the big job at Stamford Bridge.

Losing 4-0 to Manchester United in his first game wasn't exactly a strong start, but Lampard did guide the Blues to fourth in the Premier League and an FA Cup final, all while navigating the difficulties of a transfer ban.

However, after a squad investment of close to £250million before 2020-21, Chelsea's progress stalled and a run of two wins in eight league games saw Lampard replaced by Thomas Tuchel. His points-per-game average of 1.67 was the fourth lowest of any permanent Chelsea manager in the Premier League era.

Andrea Pirlo (Juventus): Failure

Compared with Pirlo, Lampard was a seasoned veteran in managerial terms. Juventus handed the top job to their former star midfielder when his only coaching experience was nine days of looking after the Under-23 side.

Pirlo's swaggering style as a player did not translate itself to the dugout: Juve lacked cohesion and creativity and were embarrassed when 10-man Porto knocked them out of the last 16 of the Champions League, a result that did more damage to Pirlo's position than any other.

The former Italy man delivered Supercoppa Italiana and Coppa Italia success, and managed to drag Juve back to a fourth-placed finish on the final day of the season, but Inter had already marched to the title by then. In the end, Pirlo lasted less than a year.

 

Mauricio Pochettino (Paris Saint-Germain): Slow progress

Pochettino is a little different to the others on our list given his coaching experience covered Espanyol, Southampton and a memorable five years at Tottenham before he went to PSG, the club where he spent two seasons as a player.

The 49-year-old has won renown for getting his teams to play high-tempo, exciting football, but this has yet to be consistently evident in Ligue 1 even if results are mostly going his way.

Ten wins from 12 games have them comfortably top of Ligue 1, while wins over Manchester City and RB Leipzig stand them in good stead in the Champions League, but it feels like PSG are too often being rescued from mediocre performances by a moment of inspiration from a star player – and that's rarely been the Pochettino way.

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Manchester United): Who knows?

Manchester United have become one of the most singularly baffling football teams in the world under Solskjaer, the man who won six Premier League titles as a player and scored arguably their most famous goal: the winner in the 1999 Champions League final that secured the treble.

Hired as an interim coach in December 2018 to repair the damage of Jose Mourinho's final months, Solskjaer rebuilt United's morale through sheer goodwill and a heady dose of nostalgia, both of which have kept him in the job ever since.

They finished second in the Premier League last term but lost the Europa League final, and seem to have gone backwards in 2021-22, with that 5-0 hammering by Liverpool almost sounding the death knell for Solskjaer. However, the talents at his disposal – not least Cristiano Ronaldo – seem to do just enough to keep Ole at the wheel on a weekly basis.

 

Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid): Resounding success... but walked away (twice)

Many of these clubs hoped to discover the next Pep Guardiola: the famous ex-player who could turn his first senior coaching job into something not just successful, but era-defining, unforgettable. Zidane at Real Madrid is the closest we have seen.

After spells as assistant to Carlo Ancelotti and coach of the Castilla, Zidane replaced the unpopular Rafael Benitez in January 2016 and led them to Champions League glory. He did the same for the next two seasons as Madrid became the first side in the tournament's modern era to win successive trophies.

Zidane also won two LaLiga titles: in 2016-17, in which he oversaw a club-record 40 games unbeaten in all competitions, and in 2019-20, when he had returned to club after walking away in May 2018. He left again at the end of 2020-21, the only season in which he did not win a trophy.

 

Related items

  • Australian Open: She can hit you off the court – Barty wary of Giorgi Australian Open: She can hit you off the court – Barty wary of Giorgi

    World number one Ash Barty is wary of Camila Giorgi's ability to "hit you off the court" ahead of their meeting at the Australian Open.

    Barty crushed Lucia Bronzetti 6-1 6-1 in the second round on Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday.

    The Australian has lost just three games in the opening two rounds at Melbourne Park, where she is bidding to win her third grand slam title.

    Another Italian, 30th seed Giorgi, awaits in the third round and Barty is wary of the hard-hitting 30-year-old.

    "Some very different challenges to what I've had the last couple matches. She has the ability to hold baseline, to control the centre of the court, be super, super aggressive off her serve and first shot, particularly off her return," she said.

    "It's going to be a match where I'm going to have to serve well, bring in variety, make sure I can cover the court, neutralise the best that I can. She has the ability to hit you off the court without realising it's happening.

    "I think it's going to be another match with some fresh challenges. But having played her before, she kind of knows my game, I kind of know hers. It's about going out there and trying to do it as good as I can."

    In three previous meetings with Giorgi, Barty has never lost, although the most recent of those came at the 2018 Australian Open.

    Barty has been in impressive form so far in Melbourne and was pleased with her performance against Bronzetti.

    "Yeah, I felt good. I felt like I wanted to try to use my experience a little bit today, get off to a quick start. I felt like I was able to do that," she said.

    "I served well. I was able to find plenty of forehands and control the match quite well, so pleased with that one."

  • Australian Open: Nadal stays on track in Melbourne Australian Open: Nadal stays on track in Melbourne

    Rafael Nadal remains on track for a record-breaking 21st grand slam title after getting past Yannick Hanfmann at the Australian Open.

    Nadal, bidding to become the outright record holder for the most majors won by a man, was too good for Hanfmann in a 6-2 6-3 6-4 victory in the second round on Wednesday.

    The Spanish star had won his only previous meeting with the German – at the French Open in 2019 – and proved too strong on Rod Laver Arena.

    Nadal will face either Russian 28th seed Karen Khachanov or Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi in the third round.

    Hanfmann held his own early, but Nadal landed the first break in the sixth game, a backhand winner down the line followed by a volley to give him a 4-2 lead.

    A break point went begging for Hanfmann in the next game and Nadal punished him, a tremendous backhand winner down the line clinching the set.

    Just as the sixth game looked set to be Hanfmann's undoing again, the German saved a break point and held for 3-3.

    But a pair of forehand winners would give Nadal a 5-3 lead on his way to taking the second set.

    The contest looked over as Nadal broke for 2-1 in the third set when Hanfmann sent a forehand long to end a 22-shot rally.

    And that proved to be the case, Nadal digging out of a 0-30 hole in the eighth game – and jumping in celebration – before closing out his win with another tough hold.

     

    DATA SLAM: Nadal's second-round perfection in Melbourne intact

    Nadal has never lost in the Australian Open second round.

    He improved that record to 16-0 with the win over Hanfmann. Only once in his career has the 2009 champion bowed out before the third round in Melbourne – losing to Fernando Verdasco in his opener in 2016.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
    Nadal – 30/26
    Hanfmann – 30/32

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
    Nadal – 1/5
    Hanfmann – 5/1

    BREAK POINTS WON
    Nadal – 4/16
    Hanfmann – 0/2

  • Rose 'angry' after Dortmund blow chance at title with shock DFB-Pokal exit Rose 'angry' after Dortmund blow chance at title with shock DFB-Pokal exit

    Borussia Dortmund head coach Marco Rose admits he is "angry" after his side spurned a golden opportunity to win a title after crashing out of the DFB-Pokal 2-1 to St Pauli on Tuesday.

    DFB-Pokal holders Dortmund conceded twice in the first half before Erling Haaland pulled back a 58th minute penalty but they could not find an equalizer in the last-16 clash.

    The defeat means for the first time since 2006-07, neither Dortmund or Bayern Munich will contend in the DFB-Pokal quarter-finals, with Rose admitting it was a major missed opportunity.

    "I'm just angry. The cup is a chance for a title and we're generally in good shape," Rose told Sky. "Then we just give the game away in the first 10 minutes.

    "The fact that you then get into problems with the ground and the strong opponent under the conditions is inexplicable and cannot be excused."

    Dortmund had come into the DFB-Pokal game fresh from beating SC Freiburg 5-1 in the Bundesliga on Friday, as well as coming from behind to win 3-2 over Eintracht Frankfurt.

    "It's a pity and a bit stupid of us that after a top performance against Freiburg and the game we played in Frankfurt, we didn't do it again," Rose said.

    "Unfortunately, we are again confirming a few things that have been held up to us in the last few weeks, months and years. It's just our fault.

    "The end pisses me off because it was a chance for a title and we're just giving the game away."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.