If asked to name two standout 'pivots', midfielders who dictate the tempo and pace of a game, you would be hard pressed to find two better examples in the modern game than Xavi Hernandez or Bastian Schweinsteiger. The Barcelona and Bayern Munich midfielders keep the ball moving so their teams can play some of the most scintillating club football in the world game – and they perform similar roles for their respective national sides too.
Ahead of the pair facing off in the UEFA Champions League semi-final clash, FIFA.com takes a look at some of the standout statistics involving the pair.
Xavi is precisely the same height as another Barça midfield maestro - Andres Iniesta, but their diminutive nature has not hindered the famed tiki-taka passing style that has become the Barcelona trademark. “Short players were once considered bad players and now we’re from another planet!” Xavi said, in an interview with Spanish newspaper El Mundo.
The German midfielder’s first Bundesliga title came a decade ago, in a team captained by Oliver Kahn and including the likes of Bixente Lizarazu and Michael Ballack. This season, Schweinsteiger secured his sixth league title with a wonderfully-crafted backheel goal.
Xavi’s inaugural La Liga title came in his debut season with the first team, with former coach Pep Guardiola occupying the has role in midfield during that title-winning season. It was another six years before Xavi secured another league title – but then a veritable purple patch ensued, with Barça grabbing five out of the next seven available La Liga crowns, the latest coming in 2011.
Combined goals and assists (2012/13 Champions League only):
Xavi: 5 (1 goals, 4 assists)
Schweinsteiger: 5 (2 goals, 3 assists)
Both players have missed just one Champions League game for their sides this season. In their nine games in the competition, both have contributed five goals to their respective teams’ efforts. Xavi has laid on four assists for his team-mates, and scored one goal (in the quarter-finals against Paris Saint-Germain), while Schweinsteiger has grabbed two goals and made the final crucial pass three times.
Interestingly, both players also have identical records in their respective league competitions, with each player contributing ten goals. Xavi has scored five La Liga goals alongside five assists, while the German midfielder has scored seven and set up three.
2012/13 pass success (league only):
Xavi: 95.2% (2250/2364 passes completed)
Schweinsteiger: 87.3% (1640/1878 passes completed)
Xavi’s astonishing pass completion statistics are the stuff of legend, even among the exalted company of the Camp Nou dressing room. His metronomic sees him constantly recycling the ball forwards and backwards, a key component to Barcelona's fluid and fluctuating style of possession football.
Schweinsteiger is slightly more attack-minded and, considering his heightened interest in goalscoring, a pass completion rate of 87.3 per cent is almost as remarkable.
One startling Champions League stat is that Xavi has misplaced just 58 passes in over 13 hours of European football so far this season. He has attempted over 1200 passes in that time.
Age when joined their club:
Xavi: 11 (in 1991)
Schweinsteiger: 13 (in 1998)
Xavi entered the famed La Masia academy in 1991, just as Johan Cruyff’s legendary side were beginning their run of four straight La Liga titles. This meant the aspiring 'pivot' had his idol Pep Guardiola to look up to, as well as a team of superstars that reached its high point with a 1992 Champions League victory at Wembley Stadium. After working his way up through the respective Juvenil and Barcelona B sides, Xavi scored on his competitive debut in 1998, around the same time that Schweinsteiger signed his first youth contract with Bayern.
The German midfielder came through the ranks and, like Xavi, spent a spell in his club's second team. He made his competitive debut as a late substitute in a Champions League match against RC Lens in 2002. Xavi has made almost 700 appearances for the first team in all competitions. Schweinsteiger, five years behind the Spanish maestro, has made over 400 first team appearances.
Head-to-head record (club and international):
Xavi: Won 3, Lost 0, Drawn 0
Schweinsteiger: Won 0, Lost 3, Drawn 0
Schweinsteiger and Xavi were both on the field as Barça swept to a breathtaking 4-0 victory at the Camp Nou in 2009. Xavi was instrumental as he laid on chance after chance for his forward players in the Champions League quarter-final clash, while Basti did not feature in the return leg at the Allianz Arena – which proved to be a formality with Barcelona advancing to the semi-finals with a 5-1 aggregate win.
The pair have met on two other occasions, both in huge international matches. The UEFA EURO 2008 final proved a tense affair, with Spain looking to end a long drought on the international scene. Xavi played the crucial pass to Fernando Torres which saw the then-Liverpool striker clip the ball over Jens Lehmann to secure a 1-0 victory. The two midfielders also faced off in the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ semi-final, with the game similarly decided by a single goal. Xavi once again provided the key assist, as his corner was met by a thumping Carles Puyol header which decided the match.
FIFA World Cup™ appearances:
Xavi: 14 (Won 11, Lost 2, Drawn 1)
Schweinsteiger: 14 (Won 10, Lost 3, Drawn 1)
After winning the FIFA U-20 World Cup Nigeria 1999, Xavi went on to make his first FIFA World Cup appearance in 2002, playing in three matches in Japan/Korea Republic as Spain bowed out at the quarter-final stage. The Barça man then went on to play in all four of Spain’s games at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany before emerging victorious in South Africa, beating Schweinsteiger’s Germany on the way.
The German midfielder made his FIFA World Cup debut in familiar surroundings at Bayern’s Allianz Arena and featured in every game as his side ended the competition in third place. The same fate befell Schweinsteiger in 2010 as his side were eliminated by Spain in the semi-finals and ended the competition in third.
In a combined 36 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches, neither has ever been on the losing side.
Have Your Say: Who do you think will shine in the UEFA Champions League semi-final - Xavi or Schweinsteiger?