Barcelona has hovered around the top of La Liga this campaign as usual; they currently sit in first on the La Liga table.
With football suspended due to the current circumstances, a potentially swift end to the season brings genuinely intriguing questions; can Barcelona bring back legends Xavi and Neymar Jr.?
While bringing both back seems imperative, only one will be taking the pitch; Neymar’s return from Paris would be gigantic for Barcelona, but Xavi the manager could be bigger still.
The former remains very influential amongst players and fans alike, while the latter may be the young, brilliant mind needed in the Catalonian capital.
As Leo Messi has grown older, it appears the weapons around him have diminished; further still, it has been years since a truly agile football mind has coached him. These two innovations alone could service both needs and in turn, provide Messi some relief as his best continues to be on display.
Neymar Jr. back in Barcelona
When Neymar was sold to Paris in 2017, Barca got a war chest of funds in return for the talented Brazilian. While they have spread this money around in the time since, none of those players have had the effect on the team like Neymar had. Not only has the production of Neymar been missing, but the synergy he has with Leo Messi.
Messi is a footballing genius and as such, sees the game in a different way than even many of his contemporaries. Leo is at his best when he is surrounded by high quality, highly intellectual football players that can understand the game as he does.
In players like Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Greizmann there is remarkable talent and ability, but perhaps not genius in the way of Messi. Neymar on the other hand, has seemed to have a rapport that suggests that he does understand, and can be understood by, Lionel Messi.
Getting him back on the wing at Barcelona could provide scoring power to take pressure off of the aforementioned innovations that took his place once upon a time. Another real possibility exists that Dembele could be part of a swap that matches him with Kylian Mbappe while Messi gets his Neymar back.
Reports suggest these “NBA deals” could be more prevalent this season as a result of current circumstances and the positives for each club are certainly obvious from afar.
Dembele alongside Mbappe is frightening to everyone in France, as well as the rest of the continent; Neymar as mentioned above, compliments Messi and could also accentuate other pieces like Greizmann, Frenkie De Jong and Ansu Fati. For Barca, this move is a must, and it only becomes better should they hire a former legendary player as their new boss.
Xavi the Manager, not the player
The legendary Barcelona midfielder was rumored to be a candidate before Quique Setien was brought in, but he declined at the time; just months later, he has had a change of heart. The form of the team has likely been a cause on some level, but having the time to start thinking about his plans and ambitions for such a position was likely a reason as well.
Whatever the change in feeling, Xavi has the hearts of Barca faithful, as well as the hierarchy of the club from what it appears. This is not shocking; he was a thoughtful minded player and appears to have those same qualities as a manager. His management of the Qatarian team Al Sadd has shown that his ability to see the game as a player can be translated as a tactician and club boss.
As Barca left the tiki-taka school of classical Barcelona play, the ability to create offense effectively and consistently was left ever more bare for the world to see. Every team at Barca plays some variation on this idea, with the tactics of the manager intermingled; to have a real protege of the style, back as manger, would be a really positive innovation for the Blaugrana.
How Xavi can make Neymar look may be nothing in comparison to how Messi may look from such an innovation. The Argentinian continues to display otherworldly numbers, even as age advances on him; to have some ideological, as well as practical, help could accentuate his genius even further than we’ve yet seen. The real question remains, can Barca pull off these spectacular pickups?
One word alone speaks on the ambition in Catalonia; if Barca wants these two individuals, they will likely have them. While Xavi can be offered the job with relatively little financial strain on the club, Neymar Jr. remains set with a hefty price tag in Paris.
In my opinion, I believe Dembele will be moved to accommodate such a transfer, but Barcelona would be wise to keep him if they can. His ability is still yet to be unlocked outside of Germany or France; it is not an impossible feat, however. It was demonstrated at Dortmund and will be demonstrated again before his career ends, the question here is exactly where?
When Barcelona have both Xavi and Neymar on its side, the ambitions of the club will be stoked to tremendous heights; this is a likely pair of innovations in just a few short months. Depending on how the season continues, if it is to do so, is a likely determinant of both the funds and motivation available to get each deal done; no matter what however, it is never safe to bet against Barcelona when it comes to making Footballing innovations.