Xavi: The Heartbeat of Barcelona and Spain
“Some youth academies worry about winning, we worry about education. You see a kid who lifts his head up, who plays the pass first time, pum, and you think, ‘Yep, he’ll do.’ Bring him in, coach him. Our model was imposed by [Johan] Cruyff; it’s an Ajax model. It’s all about rondos [piggy in the middle]. Rondo, rondo, rondo. Every. Single. Day. It’s the best exercise there is. You learn responsibility and not to lose the ball. If you lose the ball, you go in the middle. Pum-pum-pum-pum, always one touch. If you go in the middle, it’s humiliating, the rest applaud and laugh at you.
It’s a pity. Talent has to be the priority. Technical ability. Always, always. Sure, you can win without it but it’s talent that makes the difference. Look at the teams: Juventus, who makes the difference? Krasic. Del Piero. Liverpool? Gerrard, or Torres before. Talento. Talento. When you look at players and ask yourself who’s the best: talento. Cesc, Nasri, Ryan Giggs – that guy is a joy, incredible. Looking back, I loved John Barnes and Chris Waddle was buenísimo. [Open-mouthed, eyes gleaming] Le Tissier! Although their style was different I liked Roy Keane and Paul Ince together, too. That United team was great – my English team. If I’d gone anywhere, it would have been there.
Think quickly, look for spaces. That’s what I do: look for spaces. All day. I’m always looking. All day, all day. [Xavi starts gesturing as if he is looking around, swinging his head]. Here? No. There? No. People who haven’t played don’t always realise how hard that is. Space, space, space. It’s like being on the PlayStation. If the defender’s here, play it there. I see the space and pass. That’s what I do.
It’s good that the reference point for world football right now is Barcelona, that it’s Spain. Not because it’s ours but because of what it is. Because it’s an attacking football, it’s not speculative, we don’t wait. You pressure, you want possession, you want to attack. Some teams can’t or don’t pass the ball. What are you playing for? What’s the point? That’s not football. Combine, pass, play. That’s football – for me, at least. For coaches, like, I don’t know, [Javier] Clemente or [Fabio] Capello, there’s another type of football. But it’s good that Barcelona’s style is now a model, not that.”
Joined Barcelona’s youth system at the age of 11 and made a scoring first-team debut aged 18 in the 1998 Spanish Super Cup final. He has made 557 appearances for the club, scoring 56 goals.
3 Champions Leagues 2006, 2009, 2011
1 Club World Cup 2009
5 La Liga titles 1999, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010
1 Spanish Cup 2009
4 Spanish Super Cup 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010
1 Uefa Super Cup 2009
Represented every Spain youth team from Under-17 to Under-23 level, making his senior debut in 2000 at age 20. He has scored eight goals in 99 appearances. He has also scored twice in eight matches for Catalonia
1 World Cup 2010
1 European Championship 2008
1 Under-20 World Cup 1999
Olympic silver medal 2000
The world’s best playmaker, he completed 104 passes more than the next most prolific passer at last year’s World Cup which Spain won. He has made more assists than any other player in the past two La Liga and Champions League seasons
European Championship player of the tournament 2008
Champions League final man of the match 2009
Fifa World Cup All-Star Team 2010
Fifa Team of the Year 2008, 2009, 2010
Uefa Team of the Year 2008, 2009, 2010
Third place in Ballon d’Or 2009, 2010
La Liga Player of the Year 2005