August 18th, 1998—A young, unknown player named Xavi Hernandez makes his debut on Barcelona's first team in the first leg of the Super Cup in Mallorca. He scores a goal in the 15th minute. A brilliant debut for Xavi under Louis Van Gaal and a promise of an excellent career.
Now, exactly 12 years after that faithful day, Xavi is no longer a promise—he is a football legend and arguably the best Spanish footballer ever. Xavi is the man who finally managed to led Spain to international success after decades of failure.
He is the leader of two of the best teams of the 21st century—Barcelona and Spain. It's his perfect passing accuracy and the way he is always providing passing lines to his teammates that makes both teams work. He is the man that makes the famous "tiki-taka" style possible.
No man in the world can command the field like Xavi does.
Xavi has won every major trophy there is to win in football, at both the club and the international level. With Barcelona—the only club he has known his whole life (he joined Barcelona in 1991 at eleven years old)—he has won five Spanish Leagues, one Spanish Cup, three Spanish Super Cups, two Champions Leagues, one Uefa Super Cup and one Fifa Club World Cup. With Spain, he has won both the European Championship and the World Cup. He is one of the few players in history (and most of them are teammates of his in Barcelona) to have won everything in football, and the truth is, he played a vital role in every occasion.
Up until recently, Xavi had always been a very underestimated player and few understood just how important he was to Barcelona's success. However, after the Euro 2008, where he was considered Player of the Tournament, people started, little by little, to give him the credit he deserves and he started collecting individual awards. It's safe to say that unfortunate headlines like "The best players of the world (and Xavi)" (headline of an English newspaper when Xavi was a finalist for the 2008 Player of the Year award) will not be repeated, as everyone who knows anything about football now recognizes Xavi as one of the best players in the world.
After another successful season where he won La Liga with Barcelona and the World Cup with Spain, Xavi is among the favorites to lift the Golden Ball this year. I don't know about you, but I'd definitely vote for Xavi!
More than a world class football player, Xavi is now an example and an idol to all Barcelona youth players. His commitment to the team and to his teammates is truly exceptional, as Guardiola has often pointed out. He has played 527 games with the blaugrana jersey. 27 more matches and he will take first place in the all-time ranking of competitive matches for Barcelona.
“It’s a privilege and a source of pride to play alongside Xavi. I’ve got a lot to thank him for, ranging from personal advice to football tips, especially about tactics because Xavi is a very complete player. He’s a symbol for the young players coming up through the ranks. I hope we can all play as many years as him in the first team”, said Sergio Busquets in his press conference today, paying tribute to Xavi's 12 years in the first team and 19 years as a culé.
He couldn't have said it better. The "King of Assists" is a player whose influence simply can't be measured. He's already 30 years old and it will be a sad day for all Barcelona fans and all the fans of the beautiful game when he retires, since there will never be another player like Xavi.
A fantastic footballer and an example on and off the pitch, Xavi is a true football legend. If there's any justice in this world, he will go down as one of football's all-time greats.