The feeling over at FC Barcelona is that they are back in title contention for La Liga this season. They may still be 12 points behind leaders Real Madrid, but after thrashing them 4-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday, the Catalans are riding high on euphoria and fully believe that anything is possible.

After losing every single El Clasico for the last two and a half seasons, beating Real Madrid in such convincing fashion has given Barcelona the confidence to believe that the tide has finally turned in their favour. The arrival of manager Xavi Hernandez late last year proved to have been an effective boost for the team.

After a financial crisis that spilled over to the pitch, former president Josep Maria Bartomeu and his entire board were forced to resign in 2020. Joan Laporta took over in March last year, but it was too late for him to figure out a way to keep Lionel Messi.

The club entered the season with morale deep in the gutter, and this translated to dismal results on the pitch and the eventual sacking of manager Ronald Koeman.

Xavi Hernandez had a successful and lucrative job with Qatari side Al-Sadd at the time, but his heart could not resist the call from the club where he spent most of his legendary career as a professional player. The decision to come back has now returned dividends, with Barcelona finally playing like a team that their fans can be proud of.

The club was in such bad shape when Xavi arrived, but he came with a clear purpose and determination. He wanted to bring back Barcelona's playing style and the culture that he himself experienced as a player at the Camp Nou. He made strong demands during the winter transfer window, calling back his former teammate Dani Alves to help guide the squad.

Working with Jordi Cruyff, Xavi then went ahead to sign Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ferran Torres, and Adama Traore. Meanwhile, Laporta has been working behind the scenes to generate cash so that the club can climb out of their financial struggles. A lucrative deal with Spotify has now been signed, and a number of young talents have been secured with long-term deals.

Xavi also refused to ostracise French forward Ousmane Dembele, who is now playing some of the best football of his career. Because of Xavi's trust, there is now hope that the player may still renew.

After last Sunday's victory, Barcelona find themselves just three points behind second-placed Sevilla in the La Liga table. They still have a game in hand, meaning they can catch the Andalusian side with a victory in their next La Liga match wherein they will incidentally face each other. If that happens, they will sit only nine points behind leaders Real Madrid.

Xavi Hernandez
Xavi Hernandez AFP / KARIM JAAFAR