Xavi coached Barcelona to a 4-2 victory over Atletico de Madrid on Sunday afternoon as the Catalan giants move up into fourth place on the LaLiga table. The former Al Sadd of Qatar manager was ecstatic over his side’s performance and especially of new signing Adama Traore’s impact in the game.
Traore re-joined Barcelona from Wolverhampton Wanderers on the deadline day of the January transfer window. Many fans questioned the signing of the forward, who was only good enough for second division football until a few seasons ago.
However, against one of the biggest opponents, he showed why Xavi made the call to have him back at the Camp Nou, proving important in Barcelona’s first two goals and being a constant threat down the left for Barcelona. He was eventually taken off for another debutante in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to loud cheers and a standing ovation as Barcelona ended the game with two more goals.
Xavi was joyous after the win which took the club back into the top four, two points behind Real Betis in third place, who failed in their bid to extend their lead by losing 2-0 to Villarreal on Sunday evening.
Speaking after the game to BarcaTV+, the 42-year-old manager expressed his pleasure at the outcome of the game. “The fans, the players, the staff… we all needed this victory. We were superior. This is more than just another win.”
“Adama has matured a lot. And physically, he is a beast, a monster… In 1v1 situations, you cannot beat him. Adama is the perfect winger for me. I am convinced that he will be great for us.”
Xavi also talked about his former teammate Dani Alves who was sent off minutes after putting the game to bed with a sublime strike for Barcelona’s fourth goal of the afternoon. “Before Dani was red-carded, the game was perfect. We then had to back down a little. The first 60 minutes represent the Barça that we all want,” he said.
He also added that embattled forward Dembele would have played a part in the game if not for the red card, while also urging Barcelona fans to stop booing and whistling the Frenchman.
“I would like to ask the fans to please stop whistling at Dembélé. He is one more in the group,” he said.
“I wanted to sub in Dembélé during the second half. However, Dani’s red card changed our plans. Anyhow, I please ask the fans to stop whistling him.”
Barcelona progress making Xavi proud
Barcelona have been stop-start under their former midfield maestro but managed to put in a quality display in this game, albeit against a very poor Atletico side. Xavi noted that this game was a sign of the progress the club has made in the three months he has been Barcelona manager.
“It’s been three months since I’ve been here, and we’ve made great progress. I am proud.
“It could be a turning point, but we have to be humble and keep working. We’ve been very good and we can’t slow down. This style of play is what will bear fruit,” Xavi said.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone had some words for Xavi before the game in his press conference on Saturday. He claimed that the former Barcelona midfielder will have an opportunity to show his style of football as a manager after claiming that Atletico’s long-lasting style is not for big teams.
“Simeone understands football in another way,” Xavi noted. “If his team does not attack, he is fine with it. He is satisfied. If my team doesn’t have the ball, I am suffering.
“Simeone is a great coach, who everyone wants to play for. I have incredible respect for him, I’m a beginner. But the two of us want different things on the field. It’s not a criticism, it’s reality.
“The difference between the football I want and Simeone’s football was pretty clear in the first half, no?,” Xavi quipped.
Barcelona are now two points clear of Atletico and 12 points clear of Real Madrid, who play later on Sunday. They will be hoping to finish in the top four to be able to secure UEFA Champions League football next season while also preparing for their Europa League fixture against Napoli later in February.