Xavi's 10 Greatest Moments at Barcelona
Back in 2011, after Barca had just defeated arch-rivals Real Madrid, then manager Pep Guardiola summed up the ideal of the club in a short but memorable phrase which perfectly encompasses Xavi's style, (per STV Sport):
"Our game, our idea to play is simple. I have the ball, I pass the ball; I have the ball, I pass the ball; I have the ball, I pass the ball."
Universally admired by team-mates and opposition alike, an astonishing total of 694 appearances—and counting—in all competitions for the Blaugrana give an idea as to the player's importance.
Let's take a look at 10 of the best moments from Xavi's spectacular Barcelona career so far.
Training with the First Team
As Xavi rose through the ranks at La Masia, Barcelona's academy, it was only a matter of time before he graduated to first team status.
Manager Louis van Gaal, recognising the youngster's talent, had him in and around the senior team picture whilst still a teenager.
Xavi recalls (via totalBarca):
It had a huge impact on me, because I was only 17, a youth team player, Guardiola, Amor, Stoickov, Xavi Ferre, Sergi, Luis Enriqué—they treated me very well, they took me under their wings.
It was a strange feeling because one day I was watching them play on television and the next I was sharing their dressing room, training with them, passing the ball to them.
To begin with I admit I was pretty scared, but they helped me through it.
First Team Debut...under Mourinho...and Against Vilanova!
24 March 1998 was a big day in the Hernandez household, for that was the day an 18-year-old Xavi made his debut away against Lleida in the Copa Catalunya.
Camp d’Esports was the venue for the semi-final, a game in which Xavi played the entire 90 minutes and helped Barca qualify for the final 2-1.
Although Louis Van Gaal was Barca manager at the time, he had passed managerial responsibility to assistant Jose Mourinho for this particular match and it wasn't the only peculiarity in the game.
Future Barca manager Tito Vilanova came on as a second half substitute for the home side but could do nothing to stop Barca progressing.
Taking over from Pep Guardiola in the Barca Midfield
After a long-term injury to Pep Guardiola in the 1999-2000 season, Louis van Gaal promoted Xavi to the first team and he became the midfield playmaker in Pep's absence.
Media and fans alike labelled the youngster "the new Guardiola" but he was never that. Xavi was, and still is, his own man.
A move to AC Milan almost became a possibility as Xavi's self-confidence took a battering, trying to win everyone over with his own style of play, not that of his predecessor.
He decided to stay at Camp Nou and the rest is history.
First El Clasico Goal
Growing up in La Masia, players should be aware of the importance of clashes against Real Madrid. El Clasico is the one fixture as a player you dare not lose.
On 17 March 2002 Xavi Hernandez made his first meaningful contribution in this fixture.
A vociferous Camp Nou crowd were quietened when Zinedine Zidane gave the visitors the lead on 38 minutes, but it was a lead Los Blancos could only hold until just before the hour mark.
On 58 minutes, Xavi netted his first ever El Clasico goal to give Barca a share of the spoils.
Xavi the Captain
2005 was a vintage year for the man from Terrassa.
In a year where he was named Best Spanish player in La Liga, he was also handed the vice-captaincy by the club.
It's a responsibility that has sat well with Xavi, who routinely takes charge in the absence of Carles Puyol and does so with consummate ease.
Assisting Four Goals in the 2-6 Triumph at the Bernabeu
It was a game for the ages. Scoring six goals in the backyard of your fiercest rivals was beyond anyone's wildest dreams.
But that was exactly what Pep Guardiola's all-conquering 2009 vintage team managed at Real Madrid towards the climax of that La Liga season.
Carles Puyol's fearsome headed goal from a pinpoint Xavi free-kick led to one of the most iconic Barca moments in recent times, as the captain ran towards the Bernabeu faithful and held his senyera captain's band aloft.
If we review this video we see exactly how instrumental Xavi was during proceedings, assisting Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi (twice) as Barca ran away with one of the most stunning wins in recent memory.
2009 Champions League Final
An unused sub in the 2006 Champions League victory over Arsenal in Paris, Xavi got the chance to play in the final of Europe's premier club competition just three years later.
The Stadio Olimpico in Rome was the venue and tournament favourites Manchester United lay in wait for the Blaugrana.
The Old Trafford outfit were looking to become the first side to retain the Champions League trophy after defeating Chelsea in Moscow the previous year.
The Reds were the quicker out of the blocks, however, once Samuel Eto'o had put Barca ahead, there was only one winner in this match, both Xavi and Andres Iniesta giving a midfield masterclass.
Lionel Messi's headed goal, Barca's second, killed the game as a contest. In acres of space, Xavi took his time and delivered the perfect cross to cap his UEFA man-of-the-match performance.
The 5-0 Victory
Experts (Sid Lowe of The Guardian amongst them) called it the best ever performance by a club side in football history.
It was hard to argue. Those who witnessed this destruction of Real Madrid in 2010 saw a performance that was the pinnacle of Pep Guardiola's reign at Camp Nou.
Remember that Los Blancos were unbeaten going into this match and were bang in form. The manner in which they were taken apart across the 90 minutes was scarcely believable. Barcelona's passing was extraordinary.
Madrid were put to the sword like never before. You can relive the full match again in HD and with English commentary here. Drink it in.
Xavi began the rout, getting the ball out from under his feet after a sharp Iniesta defence-splitting ball, and then set about stamping his mark all over this game. Never better.
2011 Champions League Win
Only the most fervent of Barca fans would've predicted a performance on another level to that of the 2009 demolition of the same opponents.
Xavi played a full part once again. Setting up Pedro Rodriguez for the opener with a wonderful outside of the right-foot pass was an early highlight.
Even Sir Alex Ferguson was forced to concede that Guardiola's Barca were the best he had ever faced, per fcbarcelona.com:
Barca was the best team ever to line up against my Manchester United sides.
The group of world-beaters who formed around Messi were formidable. I felt no envy towards those great sides.
Regrets yes, when we lost to them, but jealousy, no.
100 Percent Pass Completion
If passing is a midfielder's currency, then Xavi is a very rich man indeed.
His passing accuracy—either short or long—is virtually without comparison, and the amount of touches of the ball he has during each game are just mind-boggling.