At odds with his teammates’ and coach’s code of silence pertaining to anything that is related to the upcoming match against Real Madrid, Xavi Hernandez granted El Mundo Deportivo an interview on Monday that reminisced the biggest bi-annual clashes Barcelona have had to play this past decade.
2000-01 | The return of Figo (2-0)> Figo’s first Clasico at the Camp Nou [after his defection]. I’ve never seen such hatred on a football pitch. There were some strong emotions and I distinctly remembered how Puyol did a great job marking Figo, and it was a good game for me too.
2001-02 | A draw with my goal (1-1)> Real came with Zidane, Bechkam, Ronaldo, Figo … and they were a level above us but we got a draw, and could even have won it. I was fortunate enough to have scored the equalizer.
2002-03 | The day of the piglet (0-0)> A day when we deserved to win. That match was made memorable for the piglet’s head that was thrown onto the pitch when Figo was about to take a corner kick. Some said it was a bad game but I think we were the superior side and deserved to win the match.
2003-04 | los Blancos superiority (1-2)> This was Rijkaard first year in charge, and Madrid, that year, was superior. There’s nothing else to say because they were the better side.
2004-05 | Cyclical Change (3-0)> It was a season of change. The end of an [first galaticos?] era. We had already won 1-2 at the Bernabeu in the first round. [At the Camp Nou] it was 3-0, and for the first goal, Eto’o ‘owned’ Roberto Carlos.
2005-06 | Injured and suffering (1-1)> I didn’t play because of an injury, and I remember that I suffered a lot. I saw that we could win it; we went ahead with a penalty for a Roberto Carlos fault on Van Bommel. I thought we would win it by 2 or 3 nil but then Ronaldo poked the ball past Victor. Madrid has always been able to conjure up something.
2006-07 | The emergence of Messi (3-3)> I remember that with one man down, after Oleguer was expelled, Messi ended a spectacular move to get the equalizer after Sergio Ramos had made it 2-3. That match was Messi’s.
2007-08 | A Clasico to forget (0-1)> It was a debacle. I remember that it was the last match to be played just before Christmas. It was an awful Christmas for us. We didn’t know what happened, but that year we seemed exhausted. In the end, we rather too easily surrendered the League title to Real Madrid.
2008-09 | An under-performing Madrid (2-0)> Madrid seemed like a small team, closely packed at the back. I was surprised by it. I remember that it never stopped raining and we were very impressive.
2009-10 | Ibrahimovic’s goal (1-0)> It was said Madrid had improved, but despite Busquets’ expulsion, we were on top of Madrid, not only at the Camp Nou but also at the Bernabeu.
Q & A
Best Clasico played at home.
The 3-0 win [2004-05], both on a personal level and collectively. We suffocated them the whole match. I remembered, along with Deco, we said to ourselves “we’re going to take charge of this match, the whole match.” Physically, we were better, and it was a great match for us.
Worst Clasico played at home.
2003-04 because we had a sense of inferiority … They came with Beckham, Zidane, Roberto Carlos … They were superior and we felt powerless.
If you were to have a dinner appointment, who would you choose to go out with, Mourinho or Cristiano Ronaldo?
To have a talk about football… of the two… perhaps Mourinho. He has a lot more experience.
Player that you have had to struggle to cover.
Zidane. He was just spectacular. He showed you the ball and you thought you could steal it from him, but then he switched it to his other foot. He’s was the 90’s and early 2000’s best player.
Player that frustrates you the most.
Makelele. He was very resilient. When you saw him approaching, you thought: “this guy is going to nick it from me”. As did Redondo.
The goal you will never ever forget.
In the Bernabeu [2004-05], and what that goal meant. In the last minute, and it was the push that cemented the end of an era.
Best advice you received before a Clasico.
That of Guardiola’s: “Enjoy ourselves but don’t abandon our philosophy.”
Comments from a rival.
I was 18 and I remembered there was a ‘coming together’ at the Bernabeu, Raul then approached me and gave me a slap, and said, “Hey, calm it down.” I was dumbfounded. He was pulling rank over me, something we also did to Madrid’s young players.
A match that you would have liked to forget.
The 4-1 at the Bernabeu . Not because of the scoreline but for the sense of powerlessness that we felt on the pitch. I guess that’s how they felt with our 2-6 win .
The Clasico that you remembered the most as a spectator.
The two 5-0. The one played here with the ‘Dream Team’ , and then the reverse 5-0 the next year with Laudrup playing there. As a cule, I suffered a lot but it was a great match up.
A Clasico is comparable to a…
An orgasm when you win (laughing). It’s like gambling your [hard-earned] money in the casino. If you win, your heart skips a beat, but if you lose…
If you were to decide, who would you sign from Madrid?
My two friends, Iker and Xabi Alonso. But only to add to the squad, because neither can be better than what we already have here.
A Madrid player that you admired the most.
Raul, by far. I still have a good relationship with him. And Hierro too, who would be my choice for a captain. He is an incredible person even if the image that he transmitted does not correspond with reality. Over here, they loathed him a lot.
Perez Burrull, during the 4-1 defeat , for the penalty he gave Madrid for a non-existent Puyol foul. And that of Losanto Omar who ruled out Rivaldo’s goal, but in hind sight it was the linesman fault, not him. With Undiano, we have always done well.
Regarding the 2-6, considering the margin, what image of that match has stuck with you since?
The feeling of superiority. You could see them talking to [accusing] each other, and it showed on their faces. On the other hand, we felt we could score another goal with every move we make.