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Xavi’s biggest mistake with Lamine Yamal that he will regret forever

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Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Xavi Hernandez left FC Barcelona following the completion of the 2023/24 season, bringing an end to a two-and-a-half-year reign as the first-team manager.

While the recently concluded season did not go all too well for Xavi and Barça, the club legend leaves behind a legacy of unearthing and trusting young individuals from the academy – a roadmap that new manager Hansi Flick intends to follow.

One of the biggest positives of the season gone by was the explosion of a certain Lamine Yamal.

Xavi gave the young La Masia winger his debut when he was just 15 and showed unequivocal trust in the teenager in the 2023/24 campaign, helping him become a mainstay despite being 16 years old.

There is no denying that Xavi deserves a lot of credit for helping Yamal reach the heights he did in the past year – becoming a regular fixture for Barcelona and Spain.

Xavi’s one regret

But, the former Barcelona midfielder and manager is likely to have left with one major regret when it comes to the 16-year-old wonderkid – the fateful substitution against PSG.

Xavi was shown a red card vs PSG. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

It all goes back to April 16 at the Montjuic Stadium when Barcelona faced PSG in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final tie.

Having won the first leg in France 3-2 and taken an early lead in Catalonia through Raphinha, Barça were in the driving seat and looked primed for a spot in the semi-finals.

However, one bad decision and a reckless move from Ronald Araujo changed everything. The Uruguayan international was sent off close to the half-hour mark, reducing Barça to ten men and PSG mounted a comeback to win 4-1 (6-4 on aggregate).

Yamal should have stayed on

When Araujo was sent off, Barça were left a defender short, forcing Xavi to reinforce the backline by introducing Inigo Martinez as a substitute.

Without Yamal, Barça lost their biggest threat in attack. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

But it came at the expense of one Lamine Yamal – which turned out to be the wrong call in hindsight.

The 16-year-old had been the Blaugrana’s biggest threat in attack and with PSG chasing the game, his presence would have allowed Barça to pounce on the spaces that their opponents left.

Even though he was on the pitch for only half an hour, Yamal ended the game with the highest xA among both sets of players. The Spanish winger’s substitution pretty much took out any sting that the Catalans’ attack possessed on the night.

A case could have been made for the substitution of Robert Lewandowski, who was not firing on all cylinders. Having Yamal on the field would have allowed Barcelona to pose a greater threat on the break as PSG pushed for a way back into the tie.

In the end, it was not to be, and the elimination from the Champions League ultimately ended up playing a part in the club’s decision to sack Xavi.

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