FC Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez lavished praise on new coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino, saying Wednesday that he had added some strategic nuances to the team in just two days of practice.
"Tata is a serious, humble, hard-working person with a winning character. He's very communicative and wants a consensus on everything. He's bringing a lot of energy and we're already working on a lot of tactical variants. We'll try to see if we can adapt quickly to him and he can adapt quickly to the club," Xavi said at Barcelona's training grounds.
Barça's 33-year-old vice-captain noted the "sad circumstances" under which Martino has taken the helm of the Spanish powerhouse, referring to previous coach Tito Vilanova's decision this summer to step down to focus on his recovery from throat cancer.
"Tito's relapse is some of the worst news of our career and that's why there was a coaching change. But we'll try to overcome that harsh blow to our squad," Xavi added.
He said Barça was working on taking the ball of its defensive half, exerting more pressure in the other team's half and increasing its intensity, all those things "we lost" at the end of last season.
The team won its 22nd La Liga title in 2012-2013, but suffered a humiliating 7-0 defeat on aggregate to German club Bayern Munich in the semifinals of the Champions League.
Referring to the addition of Brazilian phenom Neymar, who joined Barça this summer after four seasons with Santos, Xavi said he was convinced the 21-year-old striker and Lionel Messi, a four-time world player of the year, would form an outstanding duo.
"The great players make one another better. I'm convinced that Neymar will be better alongside Messi and Messi better alongside Neymar. We'll try to make sure he adapts, he's happy and he performs like he did in Brazil," Xavi said.
Neymar made his Barcelona debut on Tuesday in a pre-season match at Polish club Lechia Gdansk, coming on as a second-half substitute in a 2-2 draw. EFE