Xavi Hernandez has said Barcelona “have to be patient” in the “post-Messi era,” pointing to Manchester United as an example of a big club who have struggled to maintain their previous success in recent years.

Barca will look to strengthen their grip on second place in LaLiga on Sunday when they host Rayo Vallecano at Camp Nou in the game they have in hand over top four rivals Sevilla and Atletico Madrid.

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Xavi’s appointment as manager in November sparked a revival, after the club had dropped to ninth in the table under previous coach Ronald Koeman putting Champions League qualification in serious jeopardy.

“It’s our reality. This is the post-[Lionel] Messi era, that’s difficult in itself,” Xavi told a news conference on Saturday when asked to reflect on Barcelona’s rollercoaster season. “He used to win games on his own. We have to be patient. I’m excited to win trophies, but we have to strengthen. We have to be realistic.”

Messi left Barcelona last August, joining Paris Saint-Germain when the club’s financial restraints left them unable to register a new contract for the star forward with LaLiga.

Despite Barca’s recovery under Xavi — they’ve only lost once in the league in 2022, a 1-0 loss to struggling Cadiz this week — they remain 15 points behind LaLiga leaders Real Madrid and were eliminated from the Europa League by Eintracht Frankfurt earlier this month.

“We’re in the first year of the post-Messi era, we have to be patient,” Xavi said. “We’ve seen a lot of great teams, like at Manchester United, it’s been hard for them to come back, to qualify for the Champions League. Barca can’t allow that. We have to fight for trophies, we want to compete.”

ESPN has reported that Barcelona are already set to bring in Franck Kessie from AC Milan and Andreas Christensen from Chelsea this summer as they look to improve the squad for next season.

Xavi warned that incoming signings are dependent on others departing, with the club’s LaLiga imposed spending limit set at -€144 million.

“We’re planning for next year but it depends on the financial situation of the club,” he said. “We’ll see what we can do. For players to come in, players have to leave… What occupies us is the day-to-day, and finishing as high in the league as possible. Let’s see what financial situation we’re in.”

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