Xavi Hernandez spent 25 years of his life wearing Blaugrana. But 17 years after his debut with the first team, Xavi announced that he will leave. Although people knew that he will probably leave after losing his place in the starting 11, it was a hard decision for Xavi.
‘Tiki taka’, Barcelona and the Spanish NT that won the World cup – it’s fair to say that the ‘Maestro’ of these teams was Xavi. Although he wasn’t the biggest superstar, Xavi was the playmaker of arguably the best teams in the football’s history. Xavier Hernández Creus was the pen that Pep used to draw his masterpiece.
Make no mistakes – The ‘Cruyff legacy’ that taught players and fans how to play the Barça way is vital. The Dutch legend made us all believe in happy, attacking, and dominant football. But being a visionary is not enough to make football that people will talk about many years later. Therefore, Cruyff needed Pep as his playmaker to lead the way on the field, and Pep needed Xavi.
Leading from the midfield
Dani Alves said that it seems like Xavi lives in the future, as he knows the next move before it happens. Furthermore, focusing on Xavi playing makes you think that he sees the field with 360 degrees goggles. His famous move, ‘La pelopina’ helped Xavi and he almost never lost a ball. He would get the ball, twist fast while protecting the ball with his body, and release the ball quickly. This move helped him assist Torres in the European Cup finals. Furthermore, in 2009 Xavi helped Barça achieve historic Treble. He had 4 assists in the 2-6 win In the Santiago Bernabeu, and had another assist in the UCL finals that season.
“I see open spaces and pass the ball” he said once. However, It would have been really tough for Xavi in a team that isn’t playing the Barcelona way. And we actually saw that in years that Barcelona were not loyal to it’s style.
Xavi and Barça – NOT love at first sight
Xavi is the player that played most matches for Barça, and he’s a true club’s legend. Moreover, he’s part of the best generation in the club’s history. However, his first years were far from great.
Xavi made his debut with the first team in 1998, but he became a starter only when Pep left the club. However, Xavi wasn’t a defensive midfielder like Pep, and putting him in the ‘Pivot’ position was unfair for him. Therefore, he didn’t do great in those years. Barça in the start of the 2000’s was a team still in wounds from the Figo betrayal. Moreover, the Gaspart era as a president was awful, and Barça became a team that ends the league in the 4th place.
In those days, people referred to Xavi as ‘the sweeper’, and didn’t love the fact that he almost never passes the ball forward. Therefore, in 2003, many Barcelona fans say Xavi, then 23 years old, as a player who didn’t live up to the expectations from him. “The next Pep Guardiola? Don’t make me laugh”.
Laporta and Rijkaard take over
‘It’s always darkest before the dawn’, the first half of Laporta and Rijkaard’s first season was medicre. However, the season ended well, and by the second season, Barça played again in the Cruyff style. With partners like Eto’o, Ronaldinho and Deco, Xavi found the teammates to make it big. Therefore, the fans realized that Xavi needed the proper teammates in order to take the Cruyff values and turn them into reality.
Summer of 2008 – The big leap for Xavi
In the summer of 2008 Pep Guardiola returned to Barcelona to coach the player who replaced him. However, Xavi didn’t feel well and had offers for him from big teams like AC Milan. Pep told him that he can’t see the team without him. Pep went on to make changes in the attack, but with Deco leaving – Xavi and Iniesta became the heart of the team.
In the Spanish NT Luis Aragones told Xavi that he wants him to become the playmaker of the team, and touch the ball more than everyone. The next 2 Euro cups and the 2010 World Cup proved that the Xavi way of playing can achieve greatness. Moreover, the style of playing is something that fans all over the world fell in love with.
The next 8 years were like a dream for Barcelona fans. A title after title and the best version of the Johan Cruyff vision. Coaches come and gone, but Xavi was there to lead the way.
With Luis Enrique arrival in 2014, Xavi felt less dominant and thought that it was time to go. However, ‘Lucho’ convinced him to stay for one last season. But although he wasn’t a starter anymore, he was there to settle the argument between Messi and Lucho in January 2015. Therefore, the Treble of 2015 might won’t happen if it wasn’t for him. Playing only 2187 minutes, Xavi knew that it was time for him to go.
Future club coach?
It’s fair to say that Johan Cruyff was the first to implement his vision with this team, and Pep team was ‘version 2.0’. Will Xavi lead the 3.0 version of this team? Almost certain. However, he will not do so with this board in charge, although he thought about if few months ago.
As we saw in the past, Xavi needs a nurturing environment with people that believe in the Cruyff way. However, the current people leading the club couldn’t be more far from the Cruyff legacy.
Xavier Hernández Creus should lead the next project of the team, but it should happen in his own pace. I agree with Joan Laporta that it’s better for him to lead Barça B first. However, I would love to see him coach Leo Messi while he’s still playing with us. It will be nice to finally see a proper man to lead in the Pep way. We didn’t have that since Tito Vilanove.