Xavi Hernandez
Xavi Hernandez, pictured in 2015, won four Champions League titles with Barcelona AFP / Josep LAGO

FC Barcelona is already laying out plans for contract extension talks with former player and current first team manager Xavi Hernandez. With the club currently holding on to a nine-point advantage at the top of the La Liga table, sporting director Mateu Alemany has confirmed that the club will enter contract talks with the manager at the end of the season.

Xavi first made a name for himself as a midfielder who spent most of his playing career in Barcelona where he won numerous titles in the highly-rated Pep Guardiola era. He also impressed on the international stage with Spain, winning the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and back-to-back European Championships in 2008 and 2012.

After his retirement as a professional player in 2019, Xavi became a manager and took charge of Qatari side Al-Sadd , with whom he spent his final year as a player. After a brief but impressive stint in his first managerial role, he took over the reins at an ailing Barcelona side in the middle of the 2021-22 campaign.

Positive results under Xavi

Xavi led the club from a dismal ninth up to second place in La Liga in his first few months in charge. Now, more than halfway through his first full season, they hold a nine-point advantage at the top of the league table and are in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey.

They hold a 1-0 advantage against Real Madrid after the first leg of the semis, and while their place in the final is not yet guaranteed, the fact that they got this far has prompted club president Joan Laporta to acknowledge the manager's impact at the club.

Xavi re-joined the Catalan giants on a two-and-a-half-year deal, meaning his contract runs up to the summer of 2024. However, the club is keen on extending his stay until at least 2026.

Sporting director Mateu Alemany confirmed the club's intentions but insisted that before they arrange contract talks, everyone at the club wants to focus on the possibility of winning their first league title since 2019.

"We're delighted with Xavi's work and leadership. But now is not the time to talk about his contract, at the end of the season, we'll be able to do it", he said, as quoted by Marca.

Alemany insisted that they are entering the critical phase of the season, and intense focus is needed. A nine-point lead over Real Madrid in La Liga is nothing to be comfortable with just yet, and neither is a 1-0 first leg advantage in the Copa del Rey.

Nevertheless, the Barcelona squad has grown in confidence under Xavi, despite massive mishaps on the international stage. They have blossomed domestically in the past two seasons, but they have crashed out as many times in European competitions. Both in the current and previous seasons, they dropped to the Europa League after failing to get out of the Champions League group stage.

They crashed out of the second-tier competition in both seasons, causing major disappointment and embarrassment. However, they are still feeling positive on the pitch, especially since they are able to make improvements despite scandals behind the scenes.

Barcelona's financial crisis and scandals

In 2020, the Barcagate scandal erupted wherein the players, including then-captain Lionel Messi, clashed with the board headed by Josep Maria Bartomeu. The board was accused of launching a smear campaign against the club's own players, and accusations of corruption also erupted.

The entire saga ended in the resignation of Bartomeu and his entire board in October 2020. Some of those former executives were later arrested over related charges. The club was then revealed to be over a billion euros in debt, and the most obvious impact of this financial issue was their inability to extend Messi's contract.

President Joan Laporta took over in March 2021, and while he was unable to salvage Messi's deal that summer, he was at least able to sell off some of the club's assets in order to get them within La Liga's salary cap limit. The club also slashed salaries across the organisation all the way to the first team squad.

Just when it seemed like they were slowly getting back on their feet. the Caso Negreira exploded earlier this year. The club has been found to have been paying a former La Liga technical official, and they are now being investigated over the possibility of corruption.

They have denied the accusations and maintained that they only hired Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira as a consultant who gave valuable reports in ensuring that officiating remained neutral.

In the 1-0 away win against Athletic Club over the weekend, the home fans taunted Barcelona by chanting "Segunda Division (Second Divison)." It was in reference to possible relegation should Barcelona be found guilty of corruption in the Negreira case. However, La Liga President Javier Tebas previously said that the league can't impose sporting sanctions if none of the offences have taken place within the last three years.