Xavi talks Cancelo, Felix, Ansu, Yamal, Raphinha, Kounde, ahead of Osasuna vs Barcelona
Barcelona are set to lock horns with CA Osasuna on Sunday night in matchweek four of the 2023/24 La Liga.
The Blaugrana are unbeaten in their three matches so far this season, winning the last two after the opening day draw against Getafe.
With Real Madrid playing today, they could extend their lead at the top of the table and the reigning champions will be aiming to stay in touch with their arch-rivals and not let them build an early lead.
Ahead of the game, manager Xavi Hernandez appeared for his customary pre-match press conference during which he discussed various matters including the deadline day signings of Joao Cancelo and Joao Felix.
Starting off on their opponents Osasuna, Xavi said: “Osasuna are an intense opponent, who have had the same coach for many years. They are a tough team and a strong opponent at home.
“They have just been eliminated in the Conference League, but they have a good squad and it will be difficult for us.”
On the transfer window
When asked if he felt the squad was better than the one he had last season, the manager replied: “We will see if we have a better team than last year, the grades at the end of the season.”
As for his thoughts on how Barcelona fared in the summer window, Xavi said: “I am very happy. The club has done a very good job, the team has strengthened well. The players who have left have asked to leave. We have moved quickly to strengthen.”
When asked to rate the team’s planning and performance in the summer market out of 10, the 43-year-old replied:
I always give it a 10. The work has been excellent. There were some tense moments, but we played with fair play. Ansu, Abde, and Eric wanted to leave. It’s their decision. We adapted to what we could. It has been a good market for us. Now we have to prove it.”
I’m a club man and I try to adapt to the circumstances. Mateu, Deco, Jordi, the president, Rafa… everyone has done a great job. We are excited about how the squad has turned out,” he added.
On Joao Cancelo and Joao Felix
The manager then spoke about the deadline-day signings of Joao Cancelo and Joao Felix, saying:
“Cancelo is a proven player, who can play on both sides. Due to the departures of Ansu and Abde, we needed a reinforcement up top. Joao Felix is very talented and has made an effort to come.
I have a very positive assessment. Everyone has done an extraordinary job to have a competitive team.”
There had been reports that Xavi was not in favour of Joao Felix’s signing and that president Joan Laporta was the main driving force behind the deal. When asked about that and whether the 23-year-old fits into his plans, the manager replied:
“He fits us one hundred per cent. He is a player we have always liked. He has natural talent, he can play as a ‘9’ and on the left, he can also adapt to the right. He and Cancelo can help us a lot this season.”
Further speaking about the two Portuguese stars and their characters, Xavi added: “We are going to treat them like any other player. We’re going to try to help them to be at their best.
It already happened with Aubameyang and he was exemplary. We try to put them at ease and treat them with respect. With a good attitude, everyone will be happy.”
On the matter of Felix and his struggles at Atletico Madrid, Xavi said: “I have no information about what is happening at Atlético and it is not in my interest to give my opinion.
“Here we will give him all our love so that he performs to the best of his ability. He is an extraordinary talent and we are excited. We believe he can give us a lot.”
On where he sees Felix playing, the manager replied: “As a ‘9’, as a ‘7’, as an ’11’…. He is a very versatile player and has wonderful qualities to succeed at Barça.”
About Cancelo’s best position, he added: “His natural position is right-back, but he can also play on the left and inside. He can help us a lot on either side.”
On the deadline day exits
Talking about the deadline day departures, in particular Eric Garcia, Xavi said: “He came and told me that he wanted a change of scenery, that he needed it. I tried to convince him not to, but due to circumstances of fair play, this transfer happened. Ansu, Abde and Eric asked to leave.”
We haven’t lost anyone, all three can come back. When you listen to them you understand the need for more minutes. Here we are Barça and we don’t give anything away. It’s very difficult to get minutes at Barça,” he added further.
When asked about Ansu’s exit in particular, Xavi added: “He has the feeling that he has to play. The objective is for him to succeed again at Barça.”
As for Abde’s departure, Xavi confirmed the news about Barcelona having a buyback option, saying: “We have a buy-back option. Abde was very insistent that he wanted to leave. We have tried to sort it out and we have done well.”
On Yamal, Martinez and more…
Xavi was pleased to have Inigo Martinez at his disposal for the first time this season and said: “I’m very happy to have him in the squad, I think he’s a great signing. He has struggled in pre-season because of the fascia injury and he will come in little by little.”
Lamine Yamal has been the breakout star of the season so far for Barcelona, and Xavi touched upon the teenage prodigy, saying:
“I see him well. He is a mature footballer despite being 16 years old. He is aware of what is happening and he is happy. The handling is going very well and for the moment there are no problems.”
Talking about managing Yamal’s workload, he added: “We have to think positive. He is in the process of maturing and growing. Let’s hope he doesn’t have to play 70 games.
With Raphinha back after serving his two-game suspension, Xavi has a dilemma on his hands for the right wing. When asked who would start, Xavi replied:
“You give too much importance to coming on as a starter. Ferran Torres came on as a substitute and scored two goals. This is the attitude and the player must understand that. There are five changes. Whether Raphinha starts or not, he has to be ready.”
With the squad now complete, there are 17 players with first-team numbers, with a large number of youth players featuring in Xavi’s plans. Addressing the same, he stated:
We have done a great job in the youth system as well. There are players of a very high level. At Villarreal, there were nine home-grown players on the bench. I’m going to give opportunities to those who deserve them.”
The manager also had some strong words of praise for Jules Kounde who has made a good start to the season.
“I think he is at a spectacular level. He has started the season very well. He is a guarantee and it gives me a lot of peace of mind to have him in the team. Defensively there are few players in the world better than Kounde,” he said.
The Barça boss also touched upon the work done by Mateu Alemany and Jordi Cruyff, both of whom are no longer with the club, saying:
Mateu and Jordi are good friends and have done an extraordinary job. Deco is doing an excellent job. I am on the club’s side. I want to highlight the work done by Mateu and Jordi.”
Xavi also outlined the aim of the team in the Champions League after learning their group-stage opponents earlier this month, saying:
“We have to prove it. The group is at Champions League level. We are focused on the objective of topping the group. It’s going to be difficult and it’s not going to be easy.”