While Jurgen Klopp stole most of the manager-leaving-at-end-of-season headlines, another of the biggest clubs in the world is losing their manager come May. That would be Barcelona, as Xavi announced he would be leaving his post when this season ends. The difference between the two is that one is leaving a club that is poised to be one of the world’s best for the next few years. The other is Barcelona.

It seemed too perfect when Xavi showed up to save Barca from their Ronald Koeman hell just a little over two years ago. One of the pistons of the engine that drove Barcelona to heights never seen before next to Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets in midfield, sliding into the manager’s seat to set Barca back on the path to delirious football force. And he delivered the La Liga title last season, his first full season as manager. Except . . . no one seems to care? La Liga has never been at a lower ebb, and when it comes to Barcelona, they don’t see the world in the cold, fact-based fashion that their blood rivals Madrid do, where results are all that matter. Barcelona won, but they didn’t win how Barcelona see themselves winning.

They were a tight defensive unit and a slapped-together team of players that Barcelona could get to come take what little money they were able to free up through all their levers. This wasn’t a team built for the long haul so much as one slapped together to erase the embarrassment of losing Lionel Messi thanks to their poverty and three seasons that only collected one Copa Del Rey, along with some pretty hilarious Champions League group stage exits.

That desperate clawing at the highest ledge has come home to roost this season, as Barca sit fourth in the league, 11 points behind Girona and 10 behind Madrid. Their attack is muted, thanks to it mostly centering around Robert Lewandowski, who got old in a hurry. Once again, the club scraped together whatever cash it could shake out of couch cushions, pants-pockets in the laundry hamper and pawn shops to bring in Joao Cancelo, Ilkay Gundogan and Joao Felix. Cancelo and Gundogan are fine players, and have done just about what they’ve been asked, but are not at an age where Barca can consider building around them long-term. Felix has been just about as mercurial as he was at Atletico Madrid, when the hope was being freed from their defensive shackles would open up a whole new player. Gavi and Pedri, the prized products of La Masia, have crumbled under the weight of playing so many matches after only just learning how to shave. Alejandro Balde met the same fate as he will now likely be out for the rest of the season.

There is the foundation of the next great Barca team somewhere in there for the next manager, assuming the club is willing to be patient and let it bloom. Which it has shown it is nowhere near. If whatever manager they pick was allowed to bring Pedri, Gavi, Balde, Araujo, Felix and Lamine Yamal along slowly, accept a couple lower finishes than its used to, the club very well could dominate the European state again.

But the club also can’t afford to be out of the Champions League, literally. It is still hanging by a financial thread. Every other club knows the precarious position Barca is in, and thus will only offer 50 cents on the dollar for players they want to move along. Which means they stick around to get the wages they’d prefer, Barca don’t get the money they need and they end up selling off another 10-20 percent of the office furniture or whatever else they can.

The next manager is going to inherit a bloated squad, assembled at cross purposes for different interests, that has become inert. Which is exactly what Xavi inherited just two seasons ago. He got one tune out of it and that was enough for him. It’s unlikely the next guy will last too much longer, because who wants to stand in the middle of a figurative typhoon for an extended stay?

Stop the presses, there was a baseball trade

We had an actual baseball trade last night, as the Twins sent Jorge Polanco to Seattle for Anthony Desclafani, Justin Topa, and a couple eight-graders down the Mariners pipeline. The M’s are also sending some cash along to cover the contracts of the two pitchers.

Desclafani and Topa will boost the Twins pen and the former can swing into the rotation occasionally to support what is a pretty young Twins staff.

The M’s get a bat in the infield that they desperately need once Ty France deflated and Eugenio Suarez was moved along. Polanco doesn’t solve the Mariners’ problem of having guys who like to strikeout, but he does also walk a ton and will help their on-base percentage. After the pickups of Polanco, Mitch Haniger, Mitch Garver (are you allowed two MItches?), and Luke Raley, suddenly the M’s everyday lineup is on the old side. Julio Rodriguez will be their only regular starter in the field under 27. There’s a lot of boom-or-bust in this lineup, but they don’t need a huge boom with their five-strong rotation, as long as everyone stays healthy.

The Twins get to save some money, bolster their pen, but they still need some outfield insurance for whenever Byron Buxton breaks again.

But, hey, at least someone did something.


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