“The script has worked out perfectly,” smiled Xavi Hernandez as the diminutive Spaniard announced his impeding departure from Barcelona after 17 years of selfless service.
Exuding the careful poise and refined structure that has typified his career in the Blaugrana jersey, Xavi has called the curtains on his Barcelona career and is leaving behind what is perhaps the greatest footballing legacy the world has ever witnessed.
Xavi Hernández is an architect. Blessed with unparalleled vision, he has perfected his brand of football over years of dedication to his craft. He sees what others simply cannot, he plays like others cannot. He weaves his baton and his teammates respond with unwavering faith. The football field is his orchestra, his design.
As a promising La Masia graduate, Xavi was mentored by stalwarts of the game. Louis van Gaal was among the first to recognize his talents and Xavi was identified early on as the heir to the Guardiola throne. However, it wasn’t until the appointment of Frank Rijkaard in 2005 that the world truly began to glimpse his brilliance. To accommodate Yaya Touré into his setup, Rijkaard encouraged Xavi to take up a more attacking role in the team. With the likes of Ronaldinho, Deco, and Ludovic Guily operating ahead of him, he thrived until his season was cut short by injury.
With the appointment of idol, mentor and friend Josep Guardiola, all pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place. The tactically brilliant Guardiola reintroduced tiki-taka with Xavi as the pivot directing play with supreme ease and efficiency. With the intelligent Sergio Busquets screening the backline, Xavi was given further licence to organize and distribute which he did with lethal potency. Barcelona became a coordinated machine, with each cog working in synchronization with the other, which played some of the most beautiful football ever witnessed. Lionel Messi may have all the individual accolades, but he would be the first to acknowledge Xavi’s contribution to the Barcelona cause.
What Xavi has meant to Barcelona these past 17 years is not just limited to his on-field achievements. He has been an excellent ambassador for the club. Both on the field and off it, Xavi Hernández has maintained his composure and dignity and commands the respect of all followers of the beautiful game.
Is he the best midfielder ever? Statistically, perhaps. However, drawing such comparisons across generations is often misguided as both hindsight and foresight are unreliable. Xavi’s orchestra is not to be dissected and scrutinized. It is simply to be admired, respected and celebrated.
Generations to come shall count his trophies (23 for Barcelona), admire his longevity (over 700 appearances for the club) and laud his achievements (innumerable). I shall remember Xavi Hernandez for the simplistic beauty with which he controlled games, for those defence splitting passes straight through the middle, but most of all the sheer exuberance and unwavering dedication with which he has represented the football club he loves, practicing and preaching the brand of football he has grown up playing. His final appearance for the club shall mark the end of an era. The Football Brethren shall grieve the loss of one of its finest knights.
Gracias, Xavi. Thank you for the memories.