It was on August 18, 1998 that a then 18-year-old Xavi Hernandez made his debut for Barcelona’s first team against Mallorca, under Louis Van Gaal. He had a dream debut, having scored a goal, which was only a sign of things to come. Thirteen years later, Xavi is a Barcelona legend, a football legend and the best Spanish player of all-time.
Xavi’s career has been nothing short of phenomenal. He has led both Barcelona and Spain’s midfield for many years now and he has won absolutely everything at both club and international level. In the club’s history, he stands out as the player who has won the most titles in the blaugrana jersey. He is also the one who finally inspired Spain to international glory after decades of underachievement.
His game might not be flashy or explosive, but he is the best in the world at what he does. Xavi is arguably the best passer in football history, it’s his otherworldly passing that makes Barcelona tiki-taka so effective. It’s not just his passing, but also the intelligent way he moves on the pitch, always giving his teammates a passing line.
This (his not so flashy style) was probably the reason why it took so long for Xavi to get the recognition he deserved. Only after he was named the best player in the Euro 2008 was he widely accepted as one of the world’s very best players. Barcelona’s domination under Guardiola has also helped him get the praise he had always deserved.
At a time where football is more physical than ever, essentially a sport for the young, Xavi remains on top, fighting for best player awards every year. It is truly a testament to Xavi’s greatness that he’s still among the very best players in the world months before turning 32. And he doesn’t really look like slowing down; Xavi’s fitness is absolutely superb. He keeps playing 50+ matches a season plus internationals every year and he still shows no signs of slowing down. His fitness simply defies belief.
This is all the more impressive considering that Xavi usually covers more ground than any other player during a match. Despite his age, he looks younger and is definitely fitter than his midfield teammates at Barcelona; in fact, both Iniesta and Fabregas have picked up injuries this season, while Xavi has been playing almost every minute for club and country and hasn’t had a single problem. One has to wonder just how long Xavi can keep playing at the highest level; for now he doesn’t seem to show any signs of retirement, he’s as sharp as he ever was.
Xavi already holds the record for most overall appearances with Barcelona with 649 (588 for the first team, 61 for the B team) and he’s about to beat the record for most appearances in La Liga (391 to Migueli’s 393) and he looks set to further cement these records in the coming years, making them beyond reach.
Editor’s Note: This article was written by Manuel Traquete. He is a lifelong FC Barcelona supporter and a freelance football writer who shares his thoughts @ManueltraqueteImage credit: Miguel Ruiz (FCB)