Xavi: Pulling the strings for club and country

Part of Barcelona’s youth system since the tender age of 11, Xavi Hernandez has long been steeped in the footballing philosophy of Barça and their legendary Dutch coach Johan Cruyff. Moulded in the image of his current boss Pep Guardiola, whose playmaking role he has seamlessly filled ever since a serious injury to the latter in the 1999/00 season, Xavi boasts among his many qualities rare vision, inch-perfect passing and the ability to find gaps in the tightest of defences.

A key cog in the Azulgrana machine virtually since his first-team debut in August 1998, Xavi’s most fruitful spell at club level came in 2009, when Barça won all six of the major titles they were chasing that calendar year. Nor has the midfield orchestrator been unable to translate his success to the international stage, with Xavi captaining Spain to victory at the Nigeria 1999 edition of the FIFA U-20 World Cup and to a silver medal at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Sydney 2000.

After making his senior debut for La Roja in August of that year, the gifted string-puller has not missed a major tournament for his country ever since. What’s more, his ability to keep possession, direct his team-mates and dictate the tempo of games is an indispensable ingredient of the playing style that has brought such success in recent years.

Inspirational in victory at the UEFA EURO 2008, where he was also voted player of the tournament, Xavi’s tireless promptings were again at the heart of Spain’s triumph at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.

Highlights in 2010
Though Xavi may have claimed a full house of club titles in 2009, winning the 2010 edition of the FIFA World Cup arguably eclipses any other honour in the game. The midfield metronome behind La Roja’s historic win and voted Budweiser Man of the Match in the 1-0 victories over Portugal and Germany in the Round if 16 and semi-finals respectively, the humble superstar was also vital in his club’s tussle for La Liga supremacy with Real Madrid.

Boasting a record points’ tally of 99, just two ahead of Los Blancos, Xavi and Barça clinched the 2009/10 title on the final day of a campaign which also featured a run to the last four of the UEFA Champions League. After adding the Spanish Supercopa to his medal collection at the start of 2010/11, by the end of this calendar year the midfielder had played a remarkable tally of nearly 90 competitive matches.

The stat
669 –
The number of passes Xavi made during South Africa 2010, of which 544 found their mark - both of which were tournament-leading statistics. The Terrassa-born schemer’s completion rate was a highly impressive 81 per cent.

2010 in words
Spain aren’t used to winning major titles like these, but we managed it at EURO 2008 and now the World Cup. What’s more, I’d highlight the fact that we’ve done it while playing good football, a commitment that deserves to be rewarded with global recognition. I was particularly pleased to hear FIFA President Joseph Blatter when he said that, at last, a team playing good football became world champions.”
About the recent success of La Roja.

“I sincerely believe that we must not lose our footballing ideals. Ever since Cruyff arrived and set out our playing style, it has been what makes us different and special. Barça are known for their Azulgrana shirt and, above all, their style of play. The fans wouldn’t understand if we played any other way. They want us to win and put on a show, they wouldn’t stand for anything else.”
On Barcelona’s much-admired style of play.

“The only reason the rest of us have any chance of winning this year is because the World Cup didn’t turn out too well for Argentina; because if it had, then it (the FIFA Ballon d’Or) would be no contest. In my view, Leo [Messi] is now even better than [Diego] Maradona was.”
When asked his views on this year’s FIFA Ballon d’Or.