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Former Barcelona defender talks Xavi, Cubarsi, Yamal, Roque, De Jong, Koeman

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Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images

Oscar Mingueza was one among several youngsters who earned an opportunity at FC Barcelona during the reign of Ronald Koeman.

The versatile Spaniard, though, was unable to nail down a regular berth in the team once Xavi Hernandez took over from the Dutchman.

As such, he ended up joining Celta Vigo in the summer of 2022, where he has developed as a player, with his progress not being lost on Barcelona.

Mingueza recently sat down for an interview with SPORT during which he discussed how his exit from Barcelona came about after honest discussions with Xavi, among several other things.

Talks with Xavi

When asked if leaving Barcelona, his boyhood club, was a hard decision for him, Mingueza said:

“Believe it or not, it is a bit hard because you have been there all your life, playing with the best, but when you have things clear and you know that you have to leave to play, it is not so hard.”

Opening up on his sincere chat with Xavi over his future before leaving for Celta, the 24-year-old defender explained:

“Yes, I spoke to him, I remember there were other people and you think it’s going to stay that way… but well, these are things that happened and that’s it.”

Mingueza further revealed that he had spoken to Xavi since leaving Barcelona while also confirming that he is in touch with a few of his ex-teammates.

“Yes, I spoke to Xavi and his staff in Balaídos, before the game. We wished each other luck. Also with some players. I have contact with Pedri and Iñaki (Peña),” he said.

When asked about what he thought of Xavi as a coach and the manager’s decision to leave Barça at the end of the season, Mingueza replied:

“The team is very well organised, he has a very clear idea and he is a very good coach. It’s very difficult to control and win every game, but to win titles after a time without winning and to have Barça fighting in the Champions League is to return to what everyone wants.

“I think that saying he is leaving has relieved the team in some way and I hope for a good performance in the Champions League.”

Mingueza has done well at Celta Vigo. (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

On Koeman, youngsters

As mentioned earlier, it was Ronald Koeman who gave Mingueza his break at Barcelona. But there was an instance during a game when the Dutchman was seen having a go at the defender, which led to speculations that their relationship was not good.

Elaborating on that, Mingueza said: “We haven’t spoken again, but the relationship was good, I don’t think we had a bad relationship at any moment. He was demanding with me, which is how he has to be, and I’ll be grateful to him for the opportunity he gave me for the rest of my life.

“It was more because of the video that came out, but when we got to the dressing room we talked about it, he explained to me what he thought, so did I and it was good to talk things through and have everything clear.”

On whether there is a greater opportunity given to youngsters at Barcelona than before, the defender said:

“It’s true that when the club is short of money and has to use more of the youth system, more players come through.

“It doesn’t mean that they are better than the youth players of the past, but by having more opportunities you can show it. Now there are some very good players coming through, like Cubarsi, Gavi and Lamine.”

Mingueza then went on to state that he was surprised by the level displayed by Pau Cubarsi as well as Lamine Yamal, saying:

“I was very surprised, to be honest [with Cubarsi]. Like Lamine. It’s very nice to see youngsters like that who have so much prominence and who dare to play as much as they would if they were in the reserve or youth teams.”

When asked to choose the best players from this Barcelona side, the former La Masia man replied: “If I have to choose, De Jong and Lamine.”

Having faced Vitor Roque during the Brazilian’s only start for the Blaugrana, Mingueza opened up on the Brazilian’s qualities, saying:

“Maybe with the ball, it wasn’t his best game, but he was very strong on the ball (smiles). He tried a lot and that’s good.”

On the Catalans’ chances against PSG in the UCL, he said: “It’s very close. Barça are facing a top team with a top coach and it will be difficult.”

On the La Liga title race, Mingueza added: “Difficult for Barça, not impossible. But Madrid are strong.”

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