“Why are you staying back here when you are the best? Why don’t you attack?” asks a loving father of his 6-year-old son.
The boy answers promptly.
“You know why, daddy? If everyone’s up front, it’s easier for the other team to score, so I’m staying back here.”
The man is Joaquim Hernandez, and it was at this moment that he became aware of his son Xavi’s innate football intelligence, a quality that would make the little Catalan into a Barça legend and one of the greatest central midfielders to ever play the game.
Xavi is one of 10 footballers nominated for this year’s Golden Foot award, to be announced in Monaco on October 17. His Barça teammate, Carles Puyol, is also on the list of names chosen based on a footballer’s sustained contribution to the game.
The best thing about the award is that you can vote for the winner.
So what makes Xavi worthy of your vote?
Well, to start, Xavi has just about won it all as a footballer. His list of accolades is as complete as they come. Let's just say not every player gets a chance to sit amongst his accumulated silverware, grinning like this for a photo shoot.
You may notice not all the trophies he has won are there either. A World Cup and the two Euro Cups he has won with the Spanish national team are missing, just a small addition to his twenty trophies with Barcelona.
Barça's No. 6 has also won a number of individual awards throughout his career, but for the selfless visionary, the game is all about making those around you look good. Perhaps this is why Xavi was for so long overlooked as one of the world’s top midfielders. After all, there is nothing flashy about his game. His football is simple, beautifully simple.
What makes Xavi so brilliant is his ability to dictate football games like no other player before him. Hence the moniker "El Maestro." His passing is immaculate, his vision equally mind-boggling, but it is his understanding of space and how to utilise it that gives him his edge.
Even before Xavi receives the ball, his head is on a swivel, twisting and turning to assess the situation. By the time you close on him, he’s already played the ball perfectly. Xavi is always one step ahead, always in control.
Xavi has also always been a big-game player as well, saving his best for Los Clasicos and various championship finals. At the recent Euro 2012, Spain's No. 8 had been criticised for having a quiet tournament, but come the final, so came Xavi. His man-of-the-match performance, including two sublime assists, helped Spain to victory and made him the nation's most successful player of all time.
Indeed, it was only on the weekend that Barça were in trouble, just five minutes from dropping points to Granada, when Xavi stepped up and fired an unstoppable drive from outside the box into Toño's net. ¿Qué golazo?
The Golden Foot, however, is not only about a player's ability, but also his character. Xavi is a humble family man, a football purist and an inspirational leader.
Recently, Xavi and Iker Casillas won the Prince of Asturias Award for their role in uniting the Spanish national team and leading it to unprecedented success. The Catalan has always led from the front, and with dignity.
Finally, Xavi is a club icon. He's the most capped Blaugrana player of all time and the most successful. In a documentary by Catalan television station TV3, Victor Valdes described his teammate as the “the most ‘Cule’ player I have ever known.” Xavi bleeds blue and claret, just as Ryan Giggs, last year's winner of this coveted prize, bleeds the red of Manchester.
In an era in which football is increasingly about size and strength, Xavi has shown the little guy can still dominate. Xavi should win the Golden Foot award, if not this year, at least in years to come.
You can vote for Xavi here and check out the other nominees while you're at it.
What is your opinion on Barça's "Puppet Master." Leave a comment and please hit me up on twitter. Follow @palabrasBarca
Be sure to also check out my other recent article: Ranking La Liga Teams Based on the Transfer Window
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