When your biggest rival has already been confirmed La Liga champions while reaching yet another Champions League final in their illustrious history, it is hard to not look within and take those hits on the chin, but for Barcelona boss Xavi, the reality was always that the Catalonian outfit had work to do.
Upon officially being appointed Barcelona headmaster and securing his return home after cutting his teeth in Qatar with Al Sadd to rave reviews, the directive from on high that the club icon was to work toward was always to get back to the requisite level of competitiveness.
Barcelona sat ninth in the table when Xavi replaced Ronald Koeman; they now sit second and are the favorites to finish runner-up behind Real Madrid in the league. Though that will never be enough overall for a club of their size and prestige, the club has dealt with limitations in the first half-season under the former La Masia graduate, as step-by-step they have worked to get back on track.
According to Xavi himself - in quotes sourced by Todomercado - Barcelona must be pleased with their improvement since November but are still well short of the competitive standards they wish to uphold.
"Madrid's qualification for the final? Surely it affects many culés. We are antagonists, we have to be honest, but it doesn't have to take us out of reality. In November they told me that we had to enter the Champions League and we are in these circumstances. From next year we will assess the economic and sporting situation and we will see the objectives."
"It's a shame but we are in this situation and we have to be realistic. I think the team has improved a lot since November, but we haven't been able to compete, we have to try to be more competitive."
The immediate response seen from Barcelona has been spectacular overall, and the way the club has gone about sounding out transfer targets both in January, as well as the upcoming summer window, shows that they are looking to build for longevity rather than an immediate shot in the arm that may not have the staying power required to get back to being the very best in the country.