He may not have been the fastest. He wasn’t the tallest, nor the most physical. He had no tattoos, arm candy and was not busy making waves in the tabloids, but XAVI was one of the purest examples of a maestro on the pitch. A gentleman through and through, he represents the game we love and all that football stands for.
Xavi and La Masia
Xavi Hermandez joined La Masia, the Barcelona youth academy, at age 11, and made his first team debut against Mallorca in August 1998. In all, he played 767 official matches, a former club record, now held by Lionel Messi, and scored 85 career goals.
Even at the young age of 14, Xavi’s impressive control, passing, running and positioning was getting the attention of Barcelona football. These strengths would allow him to thrive in his formidable midfield partnership with Andres Iniesta. Xavi would mitigate his lack of athleticism with his intuition and reading of the game. Xavi was adept at scanning the field, knowing the available passes and shuffling into a lane to prevent a dangerous ball forward. Midfielders would respond by playing the ball out wide or dribbling past him and to a trap, rather than getting the ball to their forwards. Sometimes he would win the ball back with his intuition for where a pass should go.
This intuitive, emotional intelligence and executive function have since been identified as defining common denominators in highly successful athletes. He had a feel for the game that bordered on supernatural clairvoyance. He checked his shoulders obsessively, and had a better vision and understanding of the game than anyone of the time. He set the tempo. The game seemed to move at whatever speed he wanted.
When he was on the ball, passes went to the right person and the set of feet that allowed them to either go forward faster or get out of pressure more easily. It’s one thing to play a through-ball, it’s another to play one that forces the keeper out but one that Henry would get to and have time to shape his shot.
“Technique is not being able to juggle a ball 1,000 times. Anyone can do that by practising. Then you can work in the circus. Technique is passing the ball with one touch, with the right speed, at the right foot of your team mate.” - Johan Cruyff
Xavi - Champions League Magic
Xavi’s finest game was arguably at Wembley in May 2011. Although it was almost like a home game for Manchester United against Barcelona in the Champions League final, he stroked 136 passes, nine out of 10 of which accurately found the intended recipient. Iniesta made 107 passes and Messi 91. It was Xavi who orchestrated that grand performance, and it was Xavi who made more decisive passes than United’s top three put together.
Perhaps no player has ever managed to dictate possession like Xavi did, as Barcelona and Spain consistently monopolized 60 to 70% of the ball. Xavi made play statistics a fun game. His pass success rate regularly reached the high 90s, including the perfect 100% mark on occasion. Xavi and Iniesta, this duo was unfair competition to any opposing team!
Today, we see central midfielders’ main gift as having the ability to run, run and run some more, like some sort of superhuman. As lovers of the beautiful game, we are nostalgic of a time when grace, strategy and vision were on display by the legends of the game. A player like Xavi, managed to take us back to that time.
Xavi, Becoming a LEGEND
He was part of Spain and Barcelona teams that played beautiful, technical soccer. Xavi’s playing style was accentuated with fellow superstars Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi. With Spain, Xavi won the FIFA World Youth Championship in 1999, and the Olympic silver medal at the 2000 Olympics.
He played an integral role in Spain's victory at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, as well as their wins at UEFA Euro 2008 and UEFA Euro 2012. He was named Player of the Tournament at UEFA Euro 2008, and was named in the UEFA Euro Team of the Tournament in 2008 and 2012. With two assists in the UEFA Euro 2012 Final, Xavi became the first player to register assists in two separate European finals, after setting up the only goal in the final four years earlier. After the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Xavi announced his retirement from international football.
With Barcelona, Xavi won eight La Liga titles and four UEFA Champions League titles. Xavi came third in the 2009 FIFA World Player of the Year, followed by third place for its successor award, the FIFA Ballon d'Or, in 2010 and 2011. In 2011, he was runner up to Lionel Messi for the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award. He is one of the few recorded players to have made over 1,000 professional career appearances.
Thiago Alcântara, former Barcelona teammate was quoted as saying, “Xavi is eternal. Even when he is not at his very best level physically, he plays a kind of football that gives oxygen to a team, play, speed. It makes me sad to think that I won’t be able to watch Xavi [in Europe] for more time. He’ll always have that level. He is football. He is one of those players that has made Barcelona what it is today.”
Xavi lifted eight La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues, three Copa del Reys and six Spanish Super Cups during his 17 years with Barcelona’s senior team. In 2010-11 Xavi was one of the best midfielders in the world.
Joan Laporta, former Barcelona president said, “Xavi is the defender of the values of the greatest Barcelona team in history. He is the personification of a model based on effort and a commitment to touch and technique, that exquisite eye that Barcelona projected around the world.”Xavi Returning to Barca
In 2015, he departed Barcelona for Al Sadd, where he won four trophies. Al Sadd agreed to let Xavi resign from his role after Barca paid the release clause to Qatari club. We’re thrilled to see that Xavi is replacing Ronald Koeman, who was sacked last week. He’s now on his way to joining the ranks of Pep Guardiola and Luis Henrique - bonafide legends of the club. Join us in celebrating a maestro - a gentleman on the pitch - and the beginning of a new legacy for Xavi.
Be a TENLEGEND™