In hindsight, Xavi Hernandez seemed the logical choice for Barcelona as the Ronald Koeman era dragged to an end on the bench. Yet President Joan Laporta was set on Andrea Pirlo.
According to Sport, Laporta was convinced that Pirlo was the right man for the job. He saw the Italian midfielder as the equivalent appointment to Frank Rijkaard, who begun the cycle of success in his first era.
Rijkaard had only taken charge of the Dutch national team and Sparta Rotterdam, neither of which with particular success. However Rijkaard was enormously successful with Barcelona and without him, they may never have re-established themselves amongst the top teams in Europe.
Laporta was a fan of Pirlo’s ideas, in spite of the fact that he had only managed Juventus unsuccessfully. He took Juve to fourth place in Serie A and being knocked out of the Round of 16 in the Champions League, ending a run of nine straight Scudetti.
The Barcelona President invited the four Barcelona captains and three more players of ‘specific weight’ in the dressing room to his flat for dinner. There he explained that Koeman would be sacked and Pirlo the new manager.
After seeing the lack of enthusiasm and doubts expressed by the players about Pirlo, Laporta then took the advice of those around him and ended up appointing Xavi. The players had doubts about a radical change of style under an inexperienced manager, without a mastery of Castellano.
It has long been a suspicion and a criticism of Barcelona that the players have too much power at the club, something this story only adds credence to.
On the one hand it is a dangerous precedent to set, allowing the players to dictate club decisions. Something that was seen in evidence under Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Equally, the players opinion matters. If Pirlo had come in with little credit amongst the squad, then it would have made it extremely difficult to have success.