An Inter Milan-Internacional conclusion to last year’s FIFA Club World Cup was, according to many, a formality. Underdogs TP Mazembe refused to adhere to the script, however, beating the Brazilian giants to book a final against the Italian giants.
Regardless, few envisage this year’s decider being anything but a battle between the champions of Europe and South America. Midfielder Xavi, aware of the aforementioned upset in Abu Dhabi, believes it’s not a foregone conclusion the Barcelona side he represents will encounter Santos in what would arguably be the most fascinating final in the competition’s history.
“We can’t think about this yet,” said the 31-year-old, who helped Barça stage a dramatic late fightback to edge Estudiantes and become global kings in 2009. “We’re very excited to be going to the World Club Cup, but we need to know which teams will compete in the final before we discuss it.
"We’re not unbeatable. This doesn’t exist in the world. Every team causes us problems.”
“[Barcelona-Santos] would be interesting. We know about Neymar, Ganso and many other talented players. But for now the match is only hypothetical.”
Xavi, whose team-mates at Camp Nou include Dani Alves, Maxwell and Adriano, all of whom were born inside South America’s biggest country, also expressed his respect for Brazilian football.
“I’ve always been inspired by Brazilians,” he said. “Principally those who played for Barcelona, like Romario, Ronaldo and Rivaldo, who I played alongside. Brazilian football has always been an example for everybody.”
Santos and Barcelona will enter Japan 2011 in the semi-finals. Auckland City face still-to-be-determined J.League champions for the right to take on Monterrey, with the winners moving on to battle O Peixe on 14 December. Barça meet the Esperance-Al Sadd victors one day later.