In 1991, at the age of 11, Xavi joined the Barcelona school of football. Despite being an RCD Espanyol fan, Xavi was playing for arch rivals Barcelona, and playing well. By the time he was 14, he was a regular part of the Barcelona youth squad.
Xavi trained in the Total Football philosophy. The philosophy and style of Cruyff’s football, proven at the highest level, had trickled down to Xavi. He trained like the Dutch!
In 1998, he scored in his debut, Supercopa against Mallorca.
“It was really a dream come true. The day before, Louis Van Gaal came to my room in the hotel where the team was staying and told me that I was going to play against Mallorca. I couldn’t sleep that night. It was the moment I’d been waiting for since I was a boy and now it was so close I was really nervous. But scoring the goal in the 15th minute gave me fantastic confidence for the rest of the match,” he said on his debut.
Along with the likes of Iniesta and Fabregas, Xavi was part of a batch of young Barcelona starlets who would rise to the top, playing beautiful football. It was inevitable that the day this batch reaches the highest level of football, Barcelona would again rise as a European superpower.
In 2001, once Pep Guardiola left Barcelona, Xavi became the core of the team. Xavi is certainly one of the toughest oppositions to deal with. Think about it – he doesn’t do flamboyant tricks, he doesn’t try for improbable passes, he doesn’t run at defences and he doesn’t make mistakes (too often). How do you deal with that?
Xavi has stayed out of the spotlight when his team wins, but it is his coach who will notice his contribution. The coach knows that without Xavi, there is no midfield dominance, no ball possession, no goals and therefore, no wins.
Critics even went onto say that Lionel Messi’s failure at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa was due to the absence of Xavi, or a similar player.
With Xavi, it isn’t about the darting runs or lighting reflexes. He has a lazy, almost nonchalant, way of doing things. If Lionel Messi is considered as the epitome of flamboyance & energy bundles Xavi is the lazy elegance. Whether playing for Barcelona or Spain, Xavi’s presence in the midfield makes all the difference. He rotates the ball and maintains composure under pressure. He ensures that the ball stays with his team for almost 60 to 70% of the game, a huge figure at any level of the game.
The key factor that dictates his style is his clarity of thought. A calm mind allows him to process information quickly and well. His options fall out clearly and decision making becomes extremely easy. However, tiredness can dull the mind! Which is probably why Xavi runs the most, even in the Barcelona team. [Xavi is the player who ran most during the world cup: 82.2 km along with Schweinsteiger, Germany who is second (79.80 km), Pereira, for Uruguay third (78.60 km)]
With Barça Xavi has won a total of 13 competitions, including five league championships, two Champions Leagues, a World Club Cup and a European Super Cup.
With the Spanish international team he has conquered the European Championship and the World Cup.
Xavi is a finished product of the Barcelona factory! He plays to his strengths, keeps it simple and controls the game. He isn’t the kind who’ll capture headlines and make waves, but when it comes to value to the team, there is none greater!
Xavi will forever be the king in the heart of the Blaugrana team.