It’s safe to say Xavi Hernandez was not initially impressed when Louis Van Gaal was named Barcelona’s head coach.
Okay, that’s an understatement.
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Xavi, 35, now plays in Qatar for Al Saad but the Barca legend was given his debut for the Catalan club by van Gaal back in 1998 and he went on to captain the side on numerous occasions and became a key cog in their huge success over the last decade which has seen them dominate Europe and Spain.
Speaking to ESPN about his first impressions of LVG, Xavi was taken aback but soon realized the Dutchman was different… and that was okay.
“After two days of training under him, I thought, ‘Who is this idiot?’ After a week, I thought, ‘He’s right.’ He’ll always be in my heart, Louis van Gaal,” Xavi said. “He is a good person, a very good trainer. He has a very strong character, but he’s calm in the Premier League because there’s less pressure.
“He’s much calmer than when he was at Barca or Bayern. He’s honest, methodical and a real perfectionist. He’s very demanding, he’s strict and he wants to achieve the highest levels possible.”
We all know that LVG is well, particular, but the fact that he handed Xavi his debut and saw something special in not only him but a raft of other young stars coming through Barca’s academy speaks volumes considering the success they had. These comments from one of the greatest midfielders of all-time also let’s us in on the obscure approach to coaching and man-management van Gaal has and how that often rubs certain players the wrong way.
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You’re either with him or against him, and after initial disdain, Xavi was definitely on board.
Now, can the same be said for Robin Van Persie, Angel di Maria and other former players at Manchester United? The ruthless way in which LVG decimated United’s squad and rebuilt the team over the past 18 months has been radical but, when you sit back and think about it, much needed, and when you have outstanding talents like Xavi backing you and success at Ajax, Barca and Bayern Munich on your resume, it’s hard to argue with LVG’s abrupt but successful methods.
United’s fans and players will certainly be able to handle LVG’s brashness if he delivers success and trophies at Old Trafford the season and next before his three-year deal runs out in 2017.