Xavi Hernandez has announced his retirement from international football, per Spain's official Twitter account:
The 34-year-old midfielder admits he was due to retire after Euro 2012, but was persuaded to continue by coach Vicente del Bosque. He spoke during a Barcelona-based press conference, per BBC Sport:
I was going to retire after Euro 2012 but head coach Vicente del Bosque persuaded me to stay on and go to Brazil which was of course a huge disappointment for everyone and myself individually.
After Euro 2012, it was generally understood I was going to be leaving after Brazil 2014. I hope Del Bosque stays as manager as Spain because I don't think there is a better man for the job. I want to thank everyone involved in that team for the way they treated me and the respect and I could not wish for a better time as an international.
Xavi calls time on representing Del Bosque's side shortly after sustaining the latest in a string of injuries, reported by Barcelona's official website. His recovery will be aided by the lack of international duty, allowing the classy midfielder to rest during an otherwise hectic schedule with the Blaugrana.
The lovable midfielder retires from international duty after winning the 2008 and 2012 European Championships, either side of landing Spain's first ever World Cup triumph in 2010. Alongside Andres Iniesta he is widely regarded as one of the generation's leading midfielders, having helped define an era of success for both club and country.
He steps down from Spain having posted an almighty shift of 133 caps, second only to goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Xavi made his international debut during the 2-1 defeat to the Netherlands on Nov. 15, 2000, marking an incredible 14 years with the senior side, in which he scored 13 goals.
This was a journey that started long before, however, with the player representing Spain's youth teams from Under-17 level starting in 1997.
Xavi's influence through Spain's major tournament wins mark him as a legend of the nation's sporting history. His passing remains intensely accurate and forward-thinking to this day, while his ability to dictate the speed of play and retention of possession helped thrust Pep Guardiola's tiki-taka style into the mainstream.
Alongside his Barcelona teammates, Xavi's intricate, thinking man's game played a leading role in Spain's ability to dominate opponents across six years of success. He received UEFA's Player of the Tournament award during the Euro 2008 triumph in Austria-Switzerland, where his nuanced quality thrust La Rojo to international recognition.
Xavi even netted during the semi-final win over Russia, before playing the pass that would set Fernando Torres on his way to scoring the competition's clincher against Germany.
Former Barcelona striker Gary Lineker led the tributes on Twitter:
Xavi's ability to shape play continued throughout the 2010 World Cup, where he once again showed his class on a number of levels. He is an underrated busybody, someone who is always looking to progress play by getting on the ball, as noted by OptaJoe:
Carles Puyol would be the main benefactor of Xavi's work in the South African tournament's semi-final, latching onto the maestro's corner with a match-winning header against Germany. Although Iniesta is famed for netting the World Cup-winning goal against the Dutch, Xavi's place in FIFA's All-Star Team of the Tournament underlined another memorable showing from the midfield controller.
The success would continue, with Xavi providing a duo of assists in the Euro 2012 final against Italy. Spain eased to a 4-0 victory, a result that saw Xavi become the first player to assist goals in two consecutive European Championship finals.
This year's World Cup didn't go so well, but should be considered nothing more than a blot on an otherwise stunning record for Spain's national team.
Xavi made just one appearance in Brazil after succumbing to injury, which unfortunately, would be his last. He suffered a 5-1 defeat to the Netherlands during his final appearance, rounding off his international career against the Oranje, where it all began.
Very few players retire from international duty having won three major tournaments, especially when the team in question had suffered so many heartbreaks before. Xavi's style of play and quality has helped develop modern football as we know it today, a sport which should rightfully class the magician as a true icon.
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