A few days ago Xavi Hernadez gave an exclusive interview to ‘Sport.es’ where he talks about, among others, this year’s achievements and his aspirations for the future.
Below is the translated version of that interview.
What more could you have ask for in 2010?
I couldn’t ask for more – seeing the way we play, how we go about doing it, and the way we attack. I am enjoying myself a lot because everything that was taught to me since I was little are now bearing fruits and are bringing us titles, I just could not ask for much more.
I have also won the World cup with the national team and with Barca, we won the most difficult Liga competition in all of its history with 99 points… and the way we did it. Apart from winning, you’re left with the feeling that people are proud of this team, and we’ve become the benchmark [for everyone else].
Have you seen any other team play the way you guys play… ever?
The problem is that I’ve never seen it. I felt it on the pitch but I just can’t see it.
Not even on TV?
Well yes, but sometimes, it don’t seem that much either. However when people say that to me… those people that have been in this sport for the past thirty, forty years tell me they’ve never seen football being played the way we played it, it just fills me with pride. I have not seen all the teams and do not know how they played, but the feeling is that we play good football.
Have you ever watched the 5-0 again?
A part of it – the second half and a little of the first. The truth is, watching it was just wonderful. The superiority, the link-up and triangles that we played, I really enjoyed it. On top of that, it was Madrid, and 5 goals… It was just the perfect match for any cule and neutrals. It felt extraordinary. Perhaps the best feeling I’ve had in all my years playing football. And for me to score that goal, it was just the icing for me.
Are you aware that people are proud of this team?
I recently came across a great defender from the sixties, Ferran Olivella, and he told to me he thinks he never has that kind of experience before – having seen so many games and lots of teams, never had he saw a team play football so well. That an old-timer such as Olivella, who have won the European Cup and have been there before, said this to you, it makes me proud. A lot of footballers said to me, “that is just hostia!!” [Ed. a Spanish-specific swear word]. We may have won or fall by the wayside but just knowing that people likes to watch this Barca team and that we are well-received by them is just priceless.
What do Cruyff, Platini and Luis Suárez have in common?
All three have won the Ballon d’Or.
That all three have chosen me, right?
That’s right. Each of them, at least, know something about football, right?
That’s hostia! Whoever wins it does not matter as ultimately it still goes to Barca. I’ve already said the Ballon d’Or is for the Barca philosophy, and then does it go to one of the three of us. Personally, I would be very proud if I am to win the Ballon d’Or. It is a testimonial of sorts in the world of football. And for them to choose me is just wonderful. The truth is I can’t ask for more. If they give it to me, fine, if not, it’s fine too. The three of us already feel like we’re winners of the Ballon d’Or.
A joint award?
Something like that. Not only for us but also the whole team, the coaches, and the people who has worked with us for so many years. We are the products of this school. And now, they are reaping the fruits of its excellence. For me, receiving the votes from all those people that had chosen me is sufficient enough…
How do you feel with your tendon problems now?
I feel much better. A month ago I still feel immense pain but it has gone down a lot since.
I’m playing well. It has not gone one hundred percent yet but I feel more spark. It doesn’t hurt that much anymore. I’m able to play more to my liking. They’re taking good care of me. I am very grateful to Emili Ricart, who even took the time to make house-calls even though I live in Terrassa. The work he had done on me is just priceless.
And they’ve told me, he doesn’t give you any peace…
That’s true. One day, when we were on a break, the old man told me to run to La Mola to buy eggs! Emili is not only a great physio but also a very good friend.
Is asking for much more from 2011 a bit unfair?
I don’t see it like that. I always want to win more titles; la Liga, the Champions League and la Copa. I want to keep on winning. One can never gets tired of winning. The day that you get tired of winning is when you will realise your career is over. There is still a great desire to win titles again and the team is in for it. We have to enjoy these moments because everything is going well now, but unfortunately in this club, when things go wrong it is never easy.
Cruyff said in an interview not so long ago Pep’s reign has barely begun, do you agree with that?
Johan view everything well. He is very articulate, a very intelligent old hand and is mad about football. He loves Barca a lot and always wants what’s best for the club. He doesn’t seem to have it now like he had with the former president but I’ve always have a good relation with Johan. If he says that it is because he is smart, because he sees the canteras being on the rise, noticed that Pep is excited, and that the majority of us still have a lot of years of football left in us. Cruyff is seldom wrong.
How do Madrid sounds to you that they are always complaining about ‘Villarato’?
Then they are right. We have ‘VILLA para rato’ now. [Ed. Wordplay ‘David VILLA for a while’]
What do you make of their complaints?
It is not right. It is best not to speak about that.
Don’t you think the team has set the bar so high that all you can do now is equating that?
Yes, but our goal is to retain it. We know what we want. We want to win more titles and always be there competing. Last season, we miss the Champions League final by one goal; taking care of small details like these and try to do better each time. We’re doing fine in la Liga, still there in la Copa, in the Champions League eighth-finals [Ed. Round of 16], but it’s never easy.
Playing a good game does not guarantee you titles, if not we would have already won everything again. Even if you play badly you can still win it so it is crucial that we are able to compete with this [kind of mentality].
What do you think of Arsenal in the eighth-finals of the Champions League?
It will be a very nice tie, a good game, full of talents. They also like to play the passing and link-up game, and they have a coach that likes attacking football. We are grateful as we have already seen how they were in the previous two matches. I can see a nice, very direct match, full of chances.
So you prefer them?
Yes. I like them because they allow us to play, and they too want to play, but be warned! It’s not going to be easy.
Now everybody is looking back to the days of the ‘Dream Team’ to see who is better, and in every comparison this present team come out as the clear winner…
That was another era. We are a lot better now because we press a lot more, and we are also defending well. Perhaps the ‘Dream Team’ was less inclined to defend, both physically and tactically. That has been perfected. You have to be 100 % physically and technically. Think ahead of everyone else because they are going to press you and mark you individually. You have to go two thousand miles per hour if you don’t want to get run over and still have your legs.
Back then it was less physical, and with some talent you could play but that was another era. The ‘Dream Team’ was the best of their era, and now we try to be one and I believe we are it.
Some have already compared this team with the Brazil team of the 70’s that ruled the world of football with Pele at the helm…
I sincerely believe it is still too early. History will tell if we are already there, but for now we have to win a lot more titles and keep on winning, and the rest will follow.
What is certain is that, for now, nobody thinks that the balloon is going to burst…
Who knows, maybe in three weeks time everything may go down the drain and we’re not playing well, and they will start saying we are really not that good. It is necessary that we maintain the level as it is. It is necessary to try and have the same passion, the same desires, and the same aspiration, to keep on winning because it is essential. But we need to just keep on playing well. If we enjoy what we do we can achieve it.
Do you think the Christmas break can have an effect on the team?
It’s only one week that we are not playing. It’s like going on an international break with the national selection and nothing more. I don’t think it’ll have any effect.
Finally, you have not been summoned to play with Catalunya for the game against Honduras next Tuesday, why?
I’ve spoken with Johan Cruyff and Oscar Garcia telling them I still have some discomfort and they accepted it. The truth is that I would have liked to go as last year I really enjoyed it, but I prefer to have a break this time around.