When Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez took over as manager on Nov. 6, the club sat in ninth place in La Liga and were about to miss the Champions League knockout stage for the first time since 2004.
The inexperienced coach has managed to flip Barca from crisis mode to contenders. Xavi’s squad are in second place and unbeaten in their last 13 matches across all competitions — including a 4-0 El Clasico rout of leaders Real Madrid.
Now, even disgruntled winger Ousmane Dembele — a $154 million transfer who wanted out before the resurgence — is reportedly eyeing an extension. And he’s not the only player thriving as Barca make the most of their precarious finances.
- Demebele has a goal and seven assists in his last seven matches; his 10 assists are second in La Liga to Karim Benzema (11).
- Free transfer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has nine goals and an assist in his last nine matches.
- Pedri — the reigning Kopa Trophy winner for best young player — scored the decisive goal in the 1-0 win over Sevilla that put Barca in second.
After a tumultuous offseason that saw the debt-ridden Catalan giants lose Lionel Messi, Barcelona is once again one of the most attractive places to play in the world.
It’s probably too late to challenge Real for La Liga, but there’s still a possibility for silverware: Barcelona are the favorites (+140) to win Europa League.
Xavi’s men take on Eintracht Frankfurt in the first leg of the quarter-finals on Thursday.