Xavi Hernandez: Five Possible Replacements for the Spain and Barcelona Ace

Blake ThomasCorrespondent IJanuary 23, 2011

Xavi Hernandez: Five Possible Replacements for the Spain and Barcelona Ace

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    Around two weeks ago, Barcelona's Xavi waited in anticipation with teammates Messi and Iniesta in hopes of winning the first ever Fifa Ballon d'Or.

    However, Xavi, the early favorite, finished in third behind his more prolific and perhaps flashy companions.

    Many Spanish fans were disappointed, and so were many world football followers, to boot.

    While Xavi is not deadly in front of goal, he is always the most hardworking player on the field. His passing abilities and vision are unmatchable, and he is the engine of the hugely successful Barcelona and the Spanish national team.

    However, Xavi is already 30, and as brilliant as he is, his best days are over. His chance to win the much deserved accolade of best player on Earth has passed him, and his years with Barcelona are limited.

    A player like Xavi comes around once in a lifetime, and absolutely no one can replace Xavier Hernández i Creus.

    But when the time comes, Xavi's career will end, and Barcelona and Spain will have to look for someone to fill the huge void which is left.

    Let us take a look at the five most likely players to succeed Xavi.

5. Fran Merida (Atletico Madrid)

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    A product of La Masia, Fran Merida moved to Arsenal in 2006.

    During his time at the club, he was touted as the club's next great player and sparked comparisons to teammate Cesc Fabregas.

    Currently 20, he is playing at Atletico Madrid and operates as an attacking midfielder but can also be deployed as a winger.

    Merida also came up in the Spanish youth squads, where he has managed an impressive 15 goals in 45 appearances.

    He is great at unlocking defences and taking set pieces, not to mention he has a blistering left foot.

4. Ander Herrera (Real Zaragoza)

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    Ander Herrera definetely isn't the most known player, but those who do know him have tipped him to be the next Xavi.

    A 21-year-old with exceptional vision, Ander has been at Zaragoza since the dawn of his career. However, he is likely to move on to a larger club , and Barcelona have expressed great interest.

    Like Merida, he was given the chance to move to Arsenal but denied, saying La Liga was his only interest at the moment.

    He still has a great career ahead of him, but he has already mastered splitting the defence and providing lovely assists.

3. Thiago Alcantara (Barcelona)

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    At 19 years of age, Thiago Alcantara is the youngest player on this list, but one thing sets him apart from the others, and that would be the fact that he already belongs to Barcelona.

    Born in Italy, Thiago spent time in Brazil with his father Mazinho before he came to La Masia in Spain. 

    After making his first team debut in 2009, Thiago has been highly touted as Barcelona's next great midfielder.

    With speed and skill like Iniesta and the passing ability and vision of Xavi, Thiago has dedicated his future to Spain after an impressive 10 goals in 25 matches with the youth squads.

2. Borja Valero (Villarreal)

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    “My past with Real Madrid means nothing. A player is always trying to improve in the various clubs where he plays, and without doubt, the club is one of the best in the world and I would love to play for them if I ever had the chance," stated Villarreal Borja Valero.

    That is how he responded when asked about moving to Barcelona. He is obviously open to a move, and it would not be a mistake by Guardiola in the least bit.

    The 26-year-old is a product of Real Madrid's cantera, but despite his slightly old age, he is still blessed with creativity, passing, and vision which is only second to that of Xavi in La Liga.

    His fine form for the Yellow Submarines this season also earned him his first Spanish call up last October. 

1. Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal)

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    He is only 23, but Cesc Fabregas is already one of the most well rounded players in the world and captain of one of Europe's top clubs.

    Similar to Merida, Fabregas started out in La Masia before arriving at the Emirates.

    Once there, he emerged as one of Europe's most promising young midfielders, scoring and assisting goals at a devastating rate.

    His great playmaking skills and eye for goal have made him an important part of the Spanish national team and a transfer target for former club Barcelona, where he would likely be Xavi's long term replacement.