Xavi's Sterling Service Remains The Focal Point Of Barcelona's Success

Alex StampCorrespondent IApril 7, 2010

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 31:  Xavi Hernandez (L) of Barcelona is challenged by Samir Nasri of Arsenal during the UEFA Champions League quarter final first leg match between Arsenal and FC Barcelona at the Emirates Stadium on March 31, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

In Catalunya you can be sure that the deification of Lionel Messi took another step towards completion after his four goals last night.

Such is the lack of fitting footballing adjectives, which have seldom been used numerous times before to describe the Barcelona number 10, the press reached straight for the ecclesiastical lexicon.

Seldom has one footballer been so comfortably, or freely labelled as: “Mythical, universal, the Lord's anointed one”, or as El Mundo simply put: "There is only one God: Messi.”

Given the excellence of his four-goal display last night, such praise is deserved. Each goal, displaying a different quality-power for his first, anticipation for his second, impudence the third, and an ability to weave his way through defenders for the fourth.

Both Arsene Wenger and Nicklas Bendtner were quick to acclaim him as “the best player in the world”, while teammate Victor Valdes proclaimed: "Messi contributes the kind of talent that only he has.

“What we've seen today is perfect. Scoring four goals in a game at this level leaves you speechless."

Barca president Joan Laporta recently proclaimed that Messi was, along with Diego Maradona and Johan Cruyff, the best player the Barcelona have ever had.

At 22, and with the possibility of a World Cup and a third Champions League victory very much on the horizon, you’d be hard pressed to dispute those claims.

Yet for all the talk of Messi, it is easy to ignore the influence of one of the architects of Barcelona’s victory, and a man who remains the beating heart of this wonderful team, Xavi Hernandez.

The midfielder’s statistics over the two legs are quite staggering, making 244 passes over the two legs and misplacing only 15 in total over 180 minutes of football.

By comparison, Arsenal’s combined midfield of Abou Diaby, Denilson, Cesc Fabregas, and Samir Nasri failed to make more successful passes between them over the whole two legs.

But these are the levels of excellence that are expected, and perhaps even demanded of Xavi these days.

His record for club and country, four La Liga titles, two Champions League titles, and the European Championship in 2008, will rarely be bettered, yet his contributions to both club and country are frequently overlooked in favour of his illustrious colleagues.

When your teammates are of the quality of Fernando Torres, David Villa, Andres Iniesta, and Lionel Messi perhaps this is understandable, though his importance to both Spain and Barcelona’s midfield is unquestioned, especially among his teammates and peers.

Recently Iker Casillas said: “Xavi is fantastic, aside from being a friend. When he controls the ball, Barca takes note and my favourite is always him.”

While former manager Frank Rijkaard announced: “He deserves everything that is happening, he is one of the best players in the world.

“He is very talented and I don't think he is where he is from working with me, but for what he is achieving with Guardiola."

It is this partnership with Guardiola which has developed Xavi’s game further-based on a graduation through a system which was based around the principles which Johan Cruyff, Guardiola’s mentor, brought to his Barcelona team.

Both Xavi, and midfield partner Andres Iniesta, admit: "We are sons of the system”, and it is this system which has proved so successful for Barcelona during the two seasons of Guardiola’s stewardship.

As ‘Pep’ Guardiola was once the ticking heartbeat for Johan Cruyff’s dream team, so Xavi Hernandez has assumed the mantle for ‘Pep’s team’, arguably the greatest in the club’s history.

While the exploits of Lionel Messi will deservedly continue to receive the highest of high praise, it is the silver service of Xavi Hernandez that keeps this Barcelona side rolling on towards even greater success.