Xavi hits back at critics after Barca reach UCL last 8, saying who is the joke now?

March 13 – Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández hit out at critics who he says called the club the joke of the Champions League after leading them into the quarterfinals of the competition for the first time since 2020.

Fermin Lopez, Jaoa Cancelo and Robert Lewandowski were all on target as the five-time European champions beat Napoli 3-1, sealing a 4-2 aggregate win to book their place in the last eight.

It represents significant progress on a European level for Barça, who failed to make it out of the group stage in each of the last two seasons

“I said we would take a step forward with my decision to go in the summer,” said Xavi, who earlier this year announced that he will step down at the end of the season.

“People didn’t believe me; [they said] I was going to lose the dressing room. We have received unfair criticism. There has been too much pressure on the players: ultimatums, life or death [games].

“I even read that we were the joke of the Champions League. And now what?”

Barça have fallen way behind LaLiga leaders Real Madrid domestically but Xavi still has a chance to go out on a high with success in the Champions League.

“We are playing better than last year,” he added after Barça stretched their unbeaten run in all competitions to nine matches.

“We understand certain things better. Despite results, what this team is doing deserves a lot of credit. It’s a moment to be proud and value what we have done.

“I am really happy. It was a complete performance tonight against the Italian champions, one of the best displays of the season. The team gave everything and we dominated for large parts of the game. We have shown that we are ready to compete in Europe again and are back among the top eight teams on the continent.”

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