Ron's race is not run
Last Updated: February 6, 2008 12:31pm
Xavi: spoke exclusively to Revista de la Liga
Barcelona captain Xavi claims criticism of Ronaldinho has been "magnified" and backed the Brazilian to be a big part of the club's title bid this season.
"In reality Ronaldinho is paying the price for what happened last season and now it's up to him. He is training very hard, trying to recover from an injury in his ankle tendons and we're hoping he'll come back and make the difference for us and he can once again be our best player."
Xavi Quotes of the week
Ronaldinho has been the subject of media scrutiny for several months and his lack of fitness and form was seen as a key element in Barcelona's failure to win La Liga last season.
He has been isolated from the rest of the squad in recent weeks, but is battling back from an ankle injury and Xavi insists it is "up to him" if he wants to become Barcelona's most important player once again.
Speaking exclusively to Guillem Balague on Revista de la Liga, he said: "I think what happened is we took our foot off the gas and now we are paying the price for that. Everyone at the club relaxed, not just the players, but also the coaches and the board of directors.
"The club received a lot of criticism and it is only natural that all of that criticism was directed at the most important player in the squad, in this case Ronaldinho.
"When people talk about Ronaldinho, everything is magnified. When he received praise it was out of proportion, so when the criticism arrived it was also out of proportion.
"In reality he is paying the price for what happened last season and now it's up to him. He is training very hard, trying to recover from an injury in his ankle tendons and we're hoping he'll come back and make the difference for us and he can once again be our best player.
"I'm not saying it was him alone that changed the dynamic of this club but it is true to say that to a certain extent he changed the atmosphere and made us a winning team and helped us to win titles, rather than a club that didn't win anything.
"We have to respect the fact that he's trying to get back on top form so he can be the player he was before."
Xavi, who scored a crucial late winner against Osasuna at the weekend to put the club's title bid back on track, also had kind words for summer signing Thierry Henry .
The Frenchman has struggled to make an impact since his arrival from Arsenal, but Xavi says he has the right attitude to win over the Barca fans.
He said: "We are very happy with Thierry Henry and as a person he adapted very quickly to the dressing room atmosphere.
"In terms of his play it's difficult because his terrific all-round play for Arsenal created a high level of expectation. The fans want to see the same player straight away.
"The thing is that the football here is different, it's all about touch, not so much based around the counter attack and there's not so much space behind the defence.
"He's suffered a lot because of his back injury and spent five months on the sidelines before he arrived. This made his first few months very difficult.
"Hopefully because of his immense talent and quality he has turned things around and is getting back to his best."
Xavi also spoke about under-pressure coach Rijkaard and fears familiarity could be breeding contempt for the Dutchman after nearly five years at the club.
The midfielder thinks the press want to see different faces at football clubs and that is why many in the media are calling for him to be sacked.
He added: "Football doesn't have a past, only a present and in terms of the media they want new faces. In this way people who have been in and around a team for years become too familiar.
"The media needs change, this is what's happened to Raul at Real Madrid and is what has happened to Frank Rijkaard here.
"There's nothing else we can do except work hard and fight for our contracts and fight for the trophies that we aim to win this year."