Thursday, 23 April 2009

Xavi, Barcelona's pass master

author: Simon Kuper
source: The Financial Times

date: 17 April 2009

Every December in Paris, some glamour boy is awarded the “Golden Ball” for European footballer of the year. There should be a parallel ceremony in a backroom, where Europe’s most under-appreciated footballer is given a scuffed plastic sippy cup.

The award would long have been hogged by Claude Makelele, a ballwinner so unobtrusive that Real Madrid flogged him to Chelsea in 2003 rather than give him a pay rise. Real have not reached the semi-finals of the Champions League since. Paul Scholes of Manchester United succeeded Makelele as Europe’s most under-appreciated footballer. However, he lost the sippy cup when every pundit on earth began pointing out how good he was.

Now, the sippy cup goes to Xavi Hernández Creus, who as central midfielder of Barcelona and Spain drives on both the world’s best football teams.

Xavi incarnates Barcelona's football

This is only partly because he is a local boy, who still used to ride the metro to the stadium when he made his debut for Barcelona a decade ago. More significantly, Xavi was raised practically from birth to be Barcelona’s version of a quarterback – or, as they call it in the Nou Camp stadium, a “number four”.

It is a role created by Johan Cruyff, the Dutchman who updated 1970s “total football” for Barcelona. Soon after Cruyff began managing Barça in 1988, he spotted a reedy kid named “Pep” Guardiola toiling unnoticed in the youth teams, and anointed him a “four”. Guardiola became legendary in that role and today he manages Barcelona.

One day in the late 1990s a tiny “four” named Xavi, too timid to speak, showed up at training and began passing like Guardiola. Boudewijn Zenden, then playing for Barça, told me: “We said, ‘It’s the same kind of player!’ It’s hard to say, but Xavi’s a more complete player than Guardiola.” Guardiola himself agreed, telling Xavi: “You’re going to push me out the door.” Though Xavi is undeniably more mobile than Guardiola, and has eyes in the back of his head, these are not judgments he easily accepts.

Xavi did not do the things that get footballers headlines, like squabbling or being transferred or scoring lots of goals. He never spoke much. At 5ft 7in tall, he was no superhero. All he did was hit passes, left to right, up and down, like someone filling in a crossword puzzle at top speed.

Xavi incarnates the pass

Cruyff had taught Barça a style straight out of a Graham Greene novel: everything hinged on finding the third man. Everyone had to be in motion so the man on the ball could always choose between two players to pass to. No wonder Barcelona kept producing “fours”. After Xavi came the even littler Andres Iniesta, and then Cesc Fabregas, currently in exile at Arsenal, who says with Xavian modesty, “Xavi is several classes better than me.”

At Euro 2008, Xavi, Iniesta and Cesc were all on the field weaving triangles together. In the final, they made the Germans chase the ball as if in a training exercise. Spain are now unbeaten in 31 games. They have been the best national team on earth for five years now.

Moreover, Barcelona is the most glorious club on earth. If Xavi is not careful, people will soon notice him. Luckily for him, Barça’s forwards get most of the credit, and as he always tells everyone, he is not half as good as Iniesta anyway.

read the full and original article here

Read more:
Who's the best player in the world?
Xavi: "I pass and I move, I help you, I look for you"
Xavi: "I want to stay at the club of my life"
Leadership lessons from a Catalan hero


noubarca said...

touch, inspiring and very true article.
Let that wife beater (Tony Cascarino) learn from writers

BlaugranaIRE said...

very underated for the last decade and deserves every bit of credit he gets. the best passer the world has EVER seen.

Jay said...

Xavi is the hart of Barcelona style and offencive performases. I agree he is underrated by the world, put i speak for every Barcelona supporters when I say that he has a big place in our hearts, when it comes to wich players we appreciat the most. The players who are products of la masia such as messi, iniesta, xavi and puyol are the best players on the team. They play with their harts for the club, and not like its a job (severel times mentioned by eto'o). They are the hart of the team, and all though the world can't get their eyes open, us cules have seen this since the day xavi appered in the super cup final on August 18, 1998.

visca Catalonia visca el Barca

Albert said...

Love this line "then Cesc Fabregas, currently in exile at Arsenal"

barcacanada said...

humility is a good thing, whether in sport, entertainment, or business. you let your work do the talking for you, rather than run off your mouth.

it's quite impressive how good xavi and iniesta are, while always being so humble towards each other, and the others.

i hope that type of mentality and personality brings them continued barca

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