Xavi has admitted that Marcus Rashford is the toughest player he has encountered during his time as Barcelona head coach.
The legendary Spaniard will take charge of his 100th Barca game on Wednesday when his side travel to Porto on matchday two of the Champions League group stage, buoyed by the romping 5-0 win over Royal Antwerp in their first outing.
Barcelona appointed Xavi as the permanent successor to Ronald Koeman back in November 2021 and his spell so far has proven fruitful, notably leading the club to their first La Liga title in four years last season.
One of the questions put to Xavi was to name the ‘most difficult player to stop’ during his time in the dugout, naming Rashford ahead of a Real Madrid duo.
“Rashford cost us a lot,” Xavi replied. “Also Vinicius, Benzema.”
Barcelona faced Rashford and Manchester United during the knockout round play-off of last season’s Europa League.
The Red Devils earned a 2-2 draw in the first leg at Camp Nou. Marcos Alonso broke the deadlock for the hosts just after half-time, before Rashford turned on the style to equalise almost immediately.
An own goal from Jules Kounde put Erik ten Hag’s side ahead, though Barca rallied late on and found a leveller through Raphinha.
Back at Old Trafford, Barca re-took the aggregate lead after Robert Lewandowski scored from the penalty spot, but second-half strikes from Fred and Antony ensured United progressed to the last 16 instead.
Rashford’s stellar performances against Barcelona came midway through a career-best season for United in which he would score 30 goals in 56 games, helping the Red Devils end their six-year trophy drought with victory in the Carabao Cup.
The 2023/24 campaign has not been so kind to the 25-year-old though, with just a single goal to Rashford‘s name after seven Premier League outings. His individual struggles have also affected the team – Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace extending United’s worst start to a league season for 34 years.