Why Xavi Has Been Barcelona's 2nd-Best Player Behind Lionel Messi This Season
Xavi Hernandez i Creus is the footballers' footballer. A player of such craft, grace and guile that fellow professionals are always fulsome in their praise of a footballer who is arguably the finest midfielder of this, and perhaps any other generation.
Whilst Lionel Messi inevitably steals the headlines, his FC Barcelona teammate revels in the role as the conductor supreme, beautifully arranging this Blaugrana orchestra to produce ever-greater masterpieces.
FC Barcelona 2012/13 are a football team bursting with established stars who are playing at the peak of their powers. At the heartbeat of this Catalan tour de force is a 33-year-old magician with vision beyond compare.
A simple pass-and-move metronomical process that is repeated each week with verve, tenacity and accuracy is the hallmark not only of this entire Barcelona team, but of the Xavi as an individual.
Let's take a look at why I believe that Xavi, the embodiment of the modern-day footballer, is second only to Lionel Messi in terms of who has been the best player for FC Barcelona this season.
1,000 Passes in the Champions League
The benchmark for all European footballers playing today is to test themselves against the cream of European talent in the UEFA Champions League.
What sets Xavi apart from his peers is his ability to make the extraordinary seem routine, even at the highest level.
For the first time in Champions League history, a perfect 100 percent pass-completion rate was recorded last Wednesday. Xavi, with 96 passes reaching their intended target, achieved the feat against Paris St. Germain during FC Barcelona's quarter-final second leg.
He also became the first player to reach over 1,000 passes in this season's competition during the same game, in itself another absorbing statistic. No other top-level player is anywhere close to matching it.
Even Andres Iniesta, the Robin to Xavi's Batman, and himself no slouch when it comes to moving the ball with purpose and accuracy, is lagging well behind his colleague, with just under 600 successful passes completed overall in the competition.
Champions League aside, the "bread and butter" of La Liga would surely give a clearer picture as to just who is La Blaugrana's second most important player over the course of the season.
The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection in La Liga
Sure enough, in 23 La Liga appearances this seasons, Xavi's intelligent, probing work ethic and all-round incisive interplay has seen him make an astonishing 2,080 successful passes, with only 101 not reaching their intended target.
A 95 percent pass accuracy across the season, including five assists and 27 key passes, tells it's own story and is an indicator as to just how key a player Xavi is for his team.
By way of comparison, Iniesta has completed 1,999 passes over the same La Liga period, with 145 going astray for a pass accuracy of 91 per cent. He has set up marginally more chances than Xavi, with 23 being key passes according to Squawka.
Anther notable contribution this season has also come from the FC Barcelona midfield. Sergio Busquets has once again played the holding role with aplomb during his 27 La Liga appearances.
Often required to do the "dirty work" for his teammates, his value to the team is often overloooked.
A higher pass-completion rate than Iniesta (92 percent) may have surprised many, but not his colleagues at FC Barcelona.
Now You See Me, Now You Don't
Xavi is not afraid to get stuck in and his 83 percent success rate in the tackle compares very favourably with the rest of the team.
Indeed, Messi and Busquets (65 percent), Gerard Pique (63 percent) and Iniesta (62 per cent) are well behind a player whom we don't normally associate with the tougher side of the game.
Xavi is constantly on the move and has covered more ground this season than any of his teammates. His 79,666 metres covered just in the Champions League is more than David Villa and Alexis Sanchez combined for example.
Take a look at how he measures up here.
How can anyone fail to be impressed by the man at the core of FC Barcelona's tiki-taka revolution? They are simply not the same team without him in it.