Xavi Hernandez has reflected on Barcelona’s change in Coach, what Tata Martino brings and how Tito Vilanova’s battle with illness affected the squad.
This summer saw Vilanova suffer a second relapse in his fight against throat cancer, forcing him to resign his position as Coach and allow for former Newell’s Old Boys tactician Martino to succeed him.
Talking to the club’s official website, Xavi considered how the new man is settling in at the Camp Nou.
“He’s very approachable. He talks to you a lot and tries to reach agreements with the players,” the 33-year-old reflected.
“He fits in with the team perfectly, he’s a natural leader and he communicates a lot. He gets his message across clearly and he’s easy to understand.
“He’s adapted really well to our philosophy and he’s a born winner. He’s not changed too many things, but he has introduced some small variations in tactics for example, where we’ve moved from a zonal marking to man marking.
“We are working hard at bringing out the ball and set pieces, which are important in the modern game.
“I was misinterpreted by some when I said that last season we weren’t able to work on everything we would have liked to tactically and that’s something we are working more on this year.”
Vilanova first suffered a relapse to his disease in December 2012 and required a couple of months away from the club midway through last season for treatment.
“We all made a big effort last year, especially the coaching staff – Jordi Roura, Aureli Altimira, etc. Tito was away for two or three months and with him around we would have been stronger and more competitive.
“As I said, we made a big effort and we won the League with 100 points, which is really something, playing great football and scoring lots of goals.
“I think you have to stress that – we won the League despite it being a very tough year and that is much to our credit.”
Vilanova’s relapse suffered this summer ultimately saw him resign.
“It was very hard. It was a terrible thing for all of us, but especially for him and his family of course, I hope he gets better as soon as possible because he is an extraordinary person and you can see how we miss him.
“Jordi Roura and Aureli Altimira have told us that he’s still very aware of everything that’s happening here, because he is a real football man.
“The best we can do is be competitive and show him the team is working well, as well as keeping in mind all he has shown us.”
Xavi was asked of Victor Valdes heading into his final season with the club and whether it would affect his attitude on the pitch.
“Of course not. He has shown his professionalism down all the years at the club. He is an example for the squad, both on a sporting and a human level.
“He is always, always concerned for the group and he is a real winner. Nobody can criticise his decision – he took it and we just have to respect that.
“He will give everything this year and we’ll miss him when he has gone. I think he’s the best keeper in the club’s history and we must enjoy having him here this one last year.”
Barca have Neymar in their ranks this season and Xavi reflected on how he is settling in so far.
“Very well. He’s a quiet guy, he’s still young but he’s showing a lot of intelligence. The boss is bringing him in slowly and he’s showing his worth.
“At the Calderon he gave us an extra spark and he’s very good in one on one situations, which is important for us.
“When teams close us down, we need wide men who can take men on and he’s a player who is able to really make a difference.
“He can get in the box, he can score and he is set to really make a difference at Barca.”
Xavi also looked ahead to Barcelona’s midweek clash with Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana second leg at the Camp Nou.