Xavi is a living Barcelona legend. The midfield maestro has won nearly everything there is, and at 34 years old, he is likely entering his last season with the Catalan giants.
Despite his age, Xavi continues to play a vital role for La Blaugrana. Over the last few seasons, his playing time has slowly been lessened, but he has yet to really take a back seat at Barcelona.
Entering the new season, many fans are wondering just how much playing time Xavi is going to be asked to handle.
With midfielders like Ivan Rakitic and Rafinha in the squad, the 34-year-old won't have to do it all alone this year. Yet, Xavi's significance may force Luis Enrique to keep him in the lineup quite a bit.
Before we discuss how much Xavi will play this season, let's take a look back on his last few years. For simplicity, we will only look at his time in La Liga, Champions League and the Copa del Rey—the three competitions Barcelona will be active in this year.
|2013/2014 Season||2254 League Minutes||356 Cup Minutes||810 CL Minutes||3420 Total Minutes|
|2012/2013 Season||2194 League Minutes||356 Cup Minutes||946 CL Minutes||3496 Total Minutes|
|2011/2012 Season||2167 League Minutes||565 Cup Minutes||712 CL Minutes||3444 Total Minutes|
|2010/2011 Season||2464 League Minutes||529 Cup Minutes||953 CL Minutes||3946 Total Minutes|
As it is clearly seen, Xavi's playing time in Barcelona's three major competitions has fluctuated every season. One year he is playing more in the league, the other he is a major contributor in the Copa del Rey. However, it is important to note that injuries and other competitions could affect how much time a player sees on the pitch.
Regardless, a quick look at Xavi's minutes reveals that he has yet to really be weaned out of the regular lineup over the past few years. So why has the 34-year-old continued to play regular minutes for Barcelona?
Well, to put it simply, he has to.
Barcelona do not have another player like Xavi. The Catalan midfielder is one of the greatest maestros to ever play the game, and La Blaugrana just do not have another player who can create chances and pull the strings the same way Xavi has throughout his career.
But will he be asked to play as much this season? The argument could be made for either side here, so let's take a look.
To begin with, Barcelona is still without a creator like Xavi. Andres Iniesta and Rafinha are wonderful at running with the ball and creating space, but they are not the type of midfielders who will make plays happen. Rakitic, though one of the best midfielders in the world, is also not a true creator, though he is the closest thing to Xavi in the squad.
Therefore, if Enrique is planning on using a creator and orchestrator in the midfield, Xavi is going to have to play.
On the other side of things, it looks quite clear that Enrique is going to be changing up tactics at Barcelona. Messi could start playing in the hole beneath Neymar and Luis Suarez, which would likely make Messi the midfield's creative energy.
If that is the case, Xavi will not be needed nearly as much as he is in the Barcelona system he is accustomed to playing in.
So just how much playing time will Xavi see this season? The 34-year-old is not staying at Barcelona to sit on the bench. By remaining a Barcelona player, Xavi is saying that he still believes he can play a key role for La Blaugrana.
Enrique knows how talented Xavi is and what he can bring to the squad, but he is also aware of the new talent in midfield and what playing too much can do to the 34-year-old. Enrique will be wise with how he uses Xavi, but fans shouldn't expect him to be a consistent starter.
Rakitic and Rafinha are the present and future of the Barcelona midfield. Though Xavi is still around, it doesn't mean he will play the same role that he has during his career up to this point.
That being said, I predict that Xavi will play somewhere between 2,900 and 3,100 minutes this season. He will likely be used the most in the league, with a few appearances in the Champions League.
If that is how much Xavi does indeed play, it will allow him to carry on as a key member of the team, while also preparing Barcelona for his absence.
Xavi's days of starting nearly every game are behind him. His age and body won't allow for consistent minutes this season, and it is time El Maestro was used in the right way. He is still a key player who can do incredible things on the pitch, but he isn't the regular starter anymore.
How many minutes will Xavi play this season? What should his role be at Barcelona? Leave your thoughts and comments below!