Here We Go: The stories behind Barcelona signing Xavi and Tottenham bringing in Antonio Conte as head coaches


Last week, European football managers took center stage. Barcelona and Tottenham changed their coaches and began two new eras: that of Xavi Hernandez at Barça and that of Antonio Conte with Spurs. What’s behind these choices? What will happen to the projects of the two clubs?

Barca’s decision is very clear. After the sacking of Ronald Koeman, with Sergi Barjuan as interim manager, Xavi Hernandez was always the top choice of president Joan Laporta. Barca’s boss has known since October that Xavi was the main target. He might have come to that decision even earlier, but there were complications with Xavi being the man that Barca’s other presidential candidate, Victor Font, promised to bring back to take over on the sidelines.

But, since October everything has changed. Laporta chose Xavi, a legend of the club who now returns to the Blaugrana after establishing himself as a manager at Al-Sadd  in Qatar. Xavi accepted Barça’s proposal weeks ago, signing up through June 2024 and agreeing to be at the center of the new Laporta project. The Catalan club will satisfy Al-Sadd on the payment of Xavi’s release clause, while Xavi is already thinking about the Barcelona of the future and how he can make an immediate impact after the international break.

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The Catalan club’s appointment of one of the most storied players of its recent past signals a commitment to continuity. Barca want to build the future on new contracts, more than new players. After Ansu Fati and Pedri, the club is now preparing proposals for Ousmane Dembele and Gavi. Later, it will be the turn of Ronald Araujo. Though Xavi will likely get to bring in some new blood as well, and is waiting for another signing in attack in January given Sergio Aguero’s injury. So, the team remains a work in progress.

If Xavi’s appointment seemed preordained, Antonio Cone’s arrival at Tottenham is the opposite. In North London, the club showed and ability to change the Italian manager’s mind. The former Inter manager wanted to wait and remain without a new club, only Manchester United was really tempting him; at least until Spurs sacked Nuno Espirito Santo. After that, the director of football Fabio Paratici began to “bombard” Conte with phone calls, messages and attempts to convince him. The two have already worked together for three years at Juventus in the past and the preexisting relationship means there will be great synergy on the strategies and choices of new signings. That was crucial. And so, Conte has been convinced to sign with Spurs until June 2023, starting a project where he can have an immediate impact in the decision making process, starting with the January market.

One important priority will be to reassure Harry Kane about the future. One of the purposes of appointing Conte is bringing a winning mentality for the club.  In keeping with Conte’s approach, Tottenham’s intention is also to plan with Harry for the next few years. In January, however, an additional striker may arrive, Spurs will be looking for a midfielder, and Conte may also need an extra central defender to implement his preferred 3-5-2 system. It will depend on the state of the market, but the intention is for a new Tottenham to be born, one that can develop in the next 8-9 months and launch a new era. Made in Italy, of course.





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