Xavi Hernandez Story: The Evolution of a Midfield Maestro

Sriram IlangoCorrespondent IJune 12, 2011

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 08:  Xavi Hernandez of Barcelona celebrates with team-mates David Villa and Andres Iniesta during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Barcelona and Arsenal at the Nou Camp Stadium on March 8, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Xavi when looked at from a distance will not look like a footballer at all. He is short and kind of stout. Yet, he is probably the most important member of the two most influential teams of the recent past.

As the pundits say, the midfield is the heart of any team, and Xavi has been a vital part in the heart of Spain and Barcelona's rise to the top of the world over the past decade or so.

In 2004, Frank Rijkaard came into Barcelona, and the team was getting fully revamped to challenge the mighty Real Madrid. At that time, many questioned if Xavi would have a future at his boyhood club. Naturally, Xavi was a playmaker, but that duty was taken over by more experienced and proven talents like Ronaldinho and Deco. At the same time, another sensational talent in the name of Andres Iniesta was making his way into the senior team.

Xavi had a hard time during that year, but like he always does, he defied the odds and cemented his place in the team. That year, Barcelona claimed the La Liga title.

Despite all the big names and big signings, it was Xavi who won the La Liga Player of the Year award in 2005. Yes, the world was beginning to notice Xavi now!

Injury stuck Xavi during the latter half of the 2005-06 season, but he did return successfully from that, and he was placed on the bench to see his team lift the Champions League trophy against Arsenal.

2008 was probably the year when Xavi faced the hardest time within his team. Many big names were turning the heat on, and ego wars were everywhere. But the summer of 2008 was the happiest moment of this man's life.

Spain's national team had not tasted any kind of victory for 44 years at that time. But, things were going to change. Xavi hit a goal past Russia in the semifinals, and he assisted Fernando Torres to score the winning goal against Germany to help Spain lift the cup. Xavi was voted as the Euro 2008 Player of the Tournament. Over night, he became a national hero.

The Spanish League has been the powerhouse of club football for the past five decades or so. Yet, their national team struggled to win because of their indifference and ego. But, the age of Xavi saw harmony between the players. Xavi was a boyhood friend of Real's Iker Casillas and similarly, all the players shared good rapport. This meant that Spain was the team to lose the World Cup which was about to take place in 2010.

With Frank Rijkaard departing the Nou Camp in 2008, the ego games were gone. Deco, Ronaldinho and some others were sold, and Pep Guardiola took over as the manager. Barca were once again the powerhouse of Spain. This time, though, another big star emerged by the name of Lionel Messi.

With Messi and Iniesta, Xavi formed an unbreakable attacking formation. They won the historic treble of La Liga, Copa Del Rey and the Champions League in 2009. Sir Alex Ferguson of Man United, their opponent in the Champions League final, said Barca's passing will "get you on a carousel and can leave you dizzy." Xavi was once again the man of the match.

When people thought that things couldn't get better for this man, he once again defied the odds by winning the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The tournament was a low scoring one for Spain, but Xavi and Iniesta's role in the midfield was more instrumental than ever.

Now, Barcelona have won back-to-back La Liga titles, and they have also claimed the second Champions League title in three years by defeating Manchester United at Wembley.

Last year, according to many Xavi should have won the Ballon d'Or award for the best player of the year. But, the award went to his Barca teammate Leo Messi. Xavi, ever so humble, commented that Messi is one step ahead of them, and he is probably the best player that he has seen.

He is the most capped player for Barcelona and has more than 100 caps for Spain. He has truly seen all the heights in football, but will his hunger ever die? I don't think so!


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