Capping a marvellous year that saw him orchestrate Spain's triumph at UEFA EURO 2008, Xavi Hernandez travelled to Zurich to take his place among the five candidates for the men's crown at the FIFA World Player Gala 2008.
Thanks to his talent and tireless midfield prompting Xavi has already picked up one accolade in the last twelve months, the Player of the Tournament award in Austria and Switzerland. "It was a great honour," the playmaker tells FIFA.com with typical humility. "I felt enormous pride and satisfaction because I think they gave it to me for the team and in recognition of all Spain's hard work."
Even though Luis Aragones, the man who guided La Roja to success, has since moved on to be replaced by Vicente del Bosque, the Catalan conjurer believes the good times will keep on rolling. "They are different characters but the philosophy and the players are still the same. That's why we are enjoying our football so much again."
Spain's next challenge is the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009, a competition that Xavi is eyeing with cautious optimism. "It's a big tournament and obviously we are very excited about it. Let's hope we can do what we did at EURO 2008 and perform well."
"We're going to keep our feet on the ground," he says when the subject turns to South Africa 2010. "Qualification's going well and we need to work hard. If we can compete the way we have been doing up to now then we can be among the favourites to win the title. We can't get carried away, though."
Composed both on the ball and in front of a microphone, Xavi is less guarded about Barcelona's chances of capitalising on their magnificent recent form by winning some trophies at the end of the season. "The treble? Why not? It's there for us to win. No one's done it before, though, so obviously it's going to be difficult. Even so, we're going to give it a go."
The runaway Spanish leaders are a changed outfit from the Barcelona of last season, as their midfield fulcrum explains. "Everything's changed, from the coach to the renewed optimism of the whole squad. The boss has come up with a very interesting project for us. It's the perfect type of football for this Barça team."
"The key factor could be the sense of togetherness," he continues, "the desire to work hard and the cohesion in the team. Everyone really wants to win."
And just before he heads off to the Gala, Xavi shares his wishes for the new year with us. "I hope 2009 will be a year of success for Barcelona and the Spain team. On a personal note I want to keep playing game after game, getting results and seeing the club and the national side win."