For a team of FC Barcelona’s size, earning a spot in the UEFA Champions League knockout stages would be routine, but last night’s victory was especially noteworthy because the Catalan team and its supporters had not been able to go past the group stage in the previous two seasons.
Naturally, Deco, the Sporting Director for Barcelona, was among the most pleased with this accomplishment. He discussed various club aspects in his post-match interviews with journalists, as Mundo Deportivo has reported.
Deco acknowledged that his team was capable of winning the match, even though he knew it would be challenging because things become more complicated as the group stage goes on:
It is common for things to become more difficult as the group stage’s last stretch draws near. But we knew this match was significant. We needed to respond and play well because we had just suffered an unexpected loss and had not performed well against Shakhtar. We succeeded in doing so.
Cancelo was undoubtedly the most important player on the field last night, and that was one of the questions posed to him. When Deco signed the Portuguese fullback last summer, he revealed that both he and the team were aware of his versatility:
We knew that Cancelo was a versatile player who could help us by playing on both sides when we brought him in. Ultimately, it is about our positioning and mindset on the field, regardless of whether the coach wanted more defensive security with Araujo, Koundé, and Iñigo.
While Porto is a fantastic team, we played a strong game today from beginning to end, and challenges are to be expected.
When questioned about Joao Felix, Deco asserted that the club was persuaded after witnessing him in training and that the media was the only ones who were questioning his abilities.
“If anyone had any doubts, it was you (laughs). We didn’t.” We are aware of Joao’s abilities on a daily basis. Despite missing 12 games in a row due to injury, he has also played in a lot of minutes (11). He is missed opportunities to score and hit the post in numerous games, but that is just the way it works. Glad for his self-assurance and for him.
The Barcelona head coach’s contract was only extended because the team thought he was the best candidate for the position, Deco added, reiterating his complete faith in Xavi:
It is understandable; when things at Barça are not going well, rumors are commonplace. However, we know what we want and that we need to recover players for our daily operations. And then, just when we believed we had everyone, Gavi got hurt. However, since we are a team and this is football, what matters is the day-to-day, how hard we work, how much we suffer from losses, etc.
Xavi is our coach; he has a contract that he recently renewed, so there is nothing else we need to clarify. There is no debate when a team decides to keep their coach on; it is a sign of trust. I recognize that there will inevitably be criticism when we do not perform well and win, but that is to be expected. We are used to this since it is football.