The following is a translation of Xavi Hernandez’s interview with ‘El Periodico’. The original can be found here.
At present, nobody has the ability to surpass his acumen at interpreting the game the way he does it. A trait that makes Xavi Hernández, 31, a unique player. 14 years and more than 600 matches playing for FC Barcelona first team has really honed his skills at having the foresight to see beyond what everyone else sees on the pitch. With 19 titles to his name, he was twice named world’s third best player and is once again nominated by FIFA this year. The latest title etched Barça’s name as the best team of all time.
In 2006, also in Japan, you end up in tears. This time it’s all joy.
We are very pleased because I think aside from the result we have played a very good game, and were [clearly] superior. It was the best version of Barça seen yet, an excellent image. With possession of the ball we dominated the game and had Santos under control. More than ever the philosophy of Barça was there to be seen by all, and on top of that, played with nine La Masia-produced players. It’s incredible what we are going through now.
With three defenders and five midfielders. And a lone striker. In a final …
… and [a line-up] tremendous at defending. It is down to the versatility of the many players that we have in the team. The truth is playing with these guys is just amazing because we are always enjoying ourselves, and I hope it’ll last for many more years to come.
Though the 5-0 display against Real Madrid at the Camp Nou seemed insurmountable, it was surpassed by the victory over Manchester United at Wembley, and that has now been bettered again by beating Santos?
That was a great match … Wembley was too but I think this time we were able to dominate our opponents more. Santos was only able to make two or three counterattacking moves, all of which were down to our own mistakes. We were in excellent form.
That was the second incredible ending to a round… missing out on only one title.
Yes, the titles we won last year… Now we have to confront new challenges, even if they are the same every year. We’ll go for whatever remains in front of us starting from now. It was a great round, even if we missed out on the Copa, but then we can’t ask for more than that. We are truly delighted to have been part of an extraordinary football history in the making.
Where will the motivation come from? Now that everything will have to be repeated once again.
Some of us in this team have experienced the other side of the coin [too], a time without winning anything and, frankly, nothing was going right for us. Those of us who’ve been through that negative experience know that we must never diminish that hunger [to succeed] and that is the formula to keep on winning. You can win or lose, but you must try to compete. That is something indispensable.
The team made Santos look like a youth team, and that is not the first time that has happened. Manchester United was made to look the same.
Our coach has a lot to do with that. And his coaching staff is great at preparing us for those matches since it was them who analyse the opponents … We only have to try and execute what they have prepared for us to perfection. They have turned out well. As always we have to see to it that we have superiority in the middle of the park. It is one of the boss’ instructions. With three defenders we have an extra midfielder.
How do you organise yourself into [something akin] to an organised chaos?
By looking for superiority in midfield … Against Santos we played with two false forwards in Cesc and Messi, who were the receivers, while out wide we have Thiago and Alves, who act as wingers. This way, we had superiority in the middle in order to link up play.
[And] Busquets covering at the back …
He’s enormously outstanding … and yet under-rated by the media. Without Busi, the team would not have functioned as well. He is the key man. He does it so well, never a foot wrong with any decision.
What do you credit for being successful for such a long time, or the fact that you are able to lessen the effectiveness of a rival team?
The credit is in having the ball, owning it and always wanting it, and to seek the answer to everything. Preparing the details the way Pep does it, [and as] for us, we only have to put them into practice.
So it is a shared credit …
Of course. We play, but he has a lot to do with it.
It was said that Pele’s Santos team was the best in history. What if they were to confront Barça today …
I don’t know what would happen. Football is always evolving. And in a few years there could be a better Barça team than this, and players better than the current ones.
Is there room for improvement?
Can it be improved? Yes, to keep on winning, to keep having the ambition, and not to lose the hunger. That is the most important thing. And I can’t see that [losing hunger] happening.
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