Xavi, from Son Moix to glory
12 years ago, the old Son Moix stadium in Palma de Mallorca witnessed the debut of a young man who was to become one of the best midfielders in the world. For Xavi it was the first step on the road to success with the best Barça team in history.
Xavi Hernandez, a young midfielder brought in from the reserves, made his competitive first team debut for Barça on 18th August 1998 away to Mallorca in the Son Moix stadium. It was the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup against Mallorca, managed at the time by Argentine coach Hector Cuper. Xavi formed part of the starting eleven and in the 15th minute opened the scoring. It couldn’t have been better!
In a Barça TV programme broadcast on 25th October 2006, Xavi remembered the moment with great affection despite the fact that Barça went on to lose the match: “It was really a dream come true. The day before, Louis Van Gaal came to my room in the hotel where the team was staying and told me that I was going to play against Mallorca. I couldn’t sleep that night. It was the moment I’d been waiting for since I was a boy and now it was so close I was really nervous. But scoring the goal in the 15th minute gave me fantastic confidence for the rest of the match”.
An example for all
Xavi could hardly have imagined that 12 years later he would be an example for all young players to emulate and considered the best playmaker in world football. In the all-time ranking of competitive matches for Barça he stands second only to the great Migueli, with 527 against the legendary defender’s 553. Just 27 more matches in this season and he will take first place.
Josep Guardiola, who played alongside Xavi for two seasons and has now been his coach since 2008/09, has always highlighted the midfielder’s commitment to the team and to his team-mates even above his abilities as a player. He referred to this last May after the league match against Villarreal in the El Madrigal stadium, when Xavi had played despite the risk of injuring himself and missing the World cup: “He’s an example for all of us. Today he wanted to play and help the team despite the risk he ran of injuring himself and missing out on the World Cup. He’s an example to his team-mates apart from being probably the best midfielder in the history of the Club”.
Now in his early 30’s, international recognition has come to Xavi a bit late, but better late than never. Over the last couple of seasons he’s started to pick the individual awards that a player of his talent so richly deserves. Last year he came 3rd in the FIFA World Player awards, was voted the best midfielder in the Champions League and was included in the ideal eleven of such prestigious publications as L’Equipe and La Gazzetta dello Sport. The World of football has begun to do him justice and this year he is one of the favourites to lift the Golden Ball.
Xavi Hernandez has accumulated an amazing collection of medals. With Barça he has won a total of 13 competitions, including five league championships, two Champions Leagues, a World Club Cup and a European Super Cup. With the Spanish international team he has conquered the European Championship and the World Cup.