Barcelona left-back Alejandro Balde has said that Xavi puts a lot of emphasis on the playing system, adding that he believes in correcting others’ mistakes.
Balde, 19, spoke in a candid interview with GQ where he reflected on several aspects of his Barcelona career, including his first game in a Barcelona shirt, Jordi Alba’s influence and his take on what the team lacked this season.
The young left-back joined the Barcelona Academy in 2011. The youngster made his first-team breakthrough under Ronald Koeman in the 2021/22 season and in less than a year, he has made the left-back spot his own.
“At the beginning of the season, my future was not clear at all,” said the left-back.
“I didn’t know if I was going to go out on loan. I knew I wasn’t going to have minutes, but I took it as a challenge, I believed in myself.”
“The first game [against Rayo Vallecano this season] I didn’t play for a minute. In the second, against Real Sociedad, I started and gave my first assist with the first team. There I was aware that it could be important, that it was my moment,” he remembered.
In November 2022, Luis Enrique announced his national team squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The Barcelona full-back initially missed out but an injury to Jose Gaya allowed him to represent his country at the world event.
“Representing your country in the World Cup is the best. I remember the games as if they had been in dreams. Football is so fast that you don’t have time to enjoy those moments. When the championship ended, I did realize what had happened, it was very big,” he said.
Meanwhile, now that Jordi Alba has decided to call time on his Barcelona career, Balde will be Barça’s primary left-back next season. Speaking on the veteran’s influence, he added:
“Jordi has always been very good to me, he has been essential for my progress. He has helped me in all the training sessions, he has told me how I have to defend, and how to attack.
“He has also helped me a lot in the national team, I arrived again and he told me how Luis Enrique placed the full-backs. He told me to be calm. He has always been very close, I will always be grateful to him.
“Veterans tell us young people to keep our feet on the ground, that football is only a few years and then it’s all over. Also, that we are aware that we are privileged, that everyone would want to be in our position,” he added.
Speaking on Xavi’s approach, he explained, “Xavi puts a lot of emphasis on the system and on correcting our mistakes. He is a very close coach, it shows that he has been a player, he is very important to us.”
Barcelona won the La Liga title this season but they were eliminated from the UEFA Champions League as well as the Europa League and Balde is of the idea that injuries played its due part in the process.
“In Europe, we have lacked competitiveness. We’ve also had injuries at inopportune times, and there were many new signings… but there are no excuses. Next year we’re going to give everything for the Champions League, it’s the title we want the most.”
Furthermore, he also revealed the rival players who have pushed him to become a better version of himself.
“The rivals that have impacted me the most have been [Jamal] Musiala in the World Cup and [Joshua] Kimmich, from Bayern Munich. I was also very surprised by Luka Modric, who is 37 years old and looks like he is 20, he is crazy how he plays.”
Lastly, the 19-year-old also gave his opinion on the recent incident involving Real Madrid forward Vinicius Jr and Valencia fans. The Brazil international was racially abused and the aftermath of the event was pretty disturbing. Speaking about it, Balde said:
“Racism cannot be justified in any way. You can’t mess with a player because of his skin colour, whatever he does.”
“In the world of football, I have not had any racism problem, but I have had it on the street. Both me and my family. When I was little I remember wanting to play a game in a park and the kids telling me and my brother that their families wouldn’t let them play with blacks.
“My parents have had trouble getting jobs because of the colour of their skin. They have stopped my brother and have asked him for the documentation without meaning. They say ‘What are you doing here?’ just because of your skin colour,” he remembered.