Xavi: This is Atletico's moment
When Xavi Hernandez sits down to talk about football, he gestures with the same precision, passion and rhythm that he was renowned for when passing the ball on some of the most iconic pitches in the world.
Football is all in the mind, he explains. A hand motion to his head is followed by a number of swift sideways movements left and right, replicating his irrepressible distribution of the ball for his team-mates. Those same hands have also lifted the most celebrated trophies in the game, including the 2015 UEFA Champions League, as the winning captain of FC Barcelona.
"I believe that Atletico will take home the trophy,” said Xavi, in an interview with www.sc.qa in Qatar, as he looked ahead to the final in Milan between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. “I think this is the moment of Atletico."
"They also deserve it because of the work they are doing. Of course it is not the philosophy of play that I like the most, because they speculate and wait in defence, but I think it is the moment of Atletico Madrid. Football always gives you a second chance, and it is the same final as two years ago in Lisbon. Now we have the final in Milan and I think it is the time of Atletico Madrid."
The 36-year-old midfielder, who came up against Real Madrid in many iconic El Clasico clashes, added: “The favourite in terms of history could be Real Madrid, as they have more experience in finals and these situations. So they have the edge in that regard. But I believe and think that it is the moment of Atletico Madrid.”
A four-time Champions League winner, Xavi is relishing the prospect of a showpiece final with exciting talent on display and revealed he will return to the city of Barcelona to watch the Madrid giants do battle.
"In Atletico Madrid’s team you have Koke, Saul, Griezmann, Fernando Torres, these are football players with natural talent who can change a match in a moment," said the two-time FIFA Club World Cup winner. "At Real Madrid you have Kroos, Modric, Isco, James, Bale, Cristiano, Benzema, they are spectacular football players and we will see a fantastic final. I will watch it at home in Barcelona, and I'm looking forward to seeing that final."
Qatari football making impressive stridesHaving recently concluded his first season in Qatar, Xavi has revealed his ambitions of lifting Asia's equivalent of the continental club competition, which would add to his plethora of titles at club and international level, as Al Sadd look to compete with the Asian continent’s heavyweights.
"Why not in the future win an Asian Champions League with Al Sadd?,” he said. “It is very difficult, the Chinese and the Japanese compete, the Iranian sides, the Saudis and Emiratis. They are teams with a lot of history behind them and an economic level which is important, but why not Al Sadd in the future again?”
Since making the move to Qatar in 2015, Xavi has witnessed firsthand the country’s preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup – and the 2010 winner believes it has the potential to be a landmark tournament.
"I have seen a country with a total focus on construction, not only the stadiums but also the infrastructure. They are building a new metro system to make sure the traffic is not so dense. They are preparing very well on all these fronts, and they have time to solve any challenges they face. Qatar can host a fantastic and historic World Cup for football."
The Terrassa-born midfielder, who collected an astonishing 28 titles in his time with Barcelona and the Spanish national team, continued: “All of the stadiums will be marvellous and people will be surprised because the stadium designs are spectacular. People will enjoy this World Cup and in December the weather is great to really enjoy the country.
"Qatar is a fantastic country, very hospitable. It is a small country but a very welcoming one. My family and I feel very comfortable here."