Xavi: “Tito loves football”

Xavi: “Tito loves football”

It seems Xavi may have too much free time on his hands in Poland, as he keeps giving long interviews! This time, he talked to Mundo Deportivo about Spain’s chances of winning the Eurocup, Tito’s appointment, and many other things. The original article can be found here.

First, how is your injury?

It is fine, it’s all forgotten now. The problem I had before is that I was playing injured.

Speaking of injuries, it seems you will play every minute of this Eurocup, as you are irreplaceable…

No, there are other players, others that can play in my position, such as Andrés or Cesc. There will be chances for everybody to play.

The other day, Van Basten said that you had ended the myth of physical football, as you seem to have a lot of years ahead in this profession.

I thank him for his words, Van Basten being one of the best strikers in football history. About the football based only on physical strength, the thing is that teams tend to be very speculative, most of them are afraid to lose and would prefer a draw over risking going forward, as a draw might make you get to the next round.

Now speaking about Barça, Tito Vilanova has officially being appointed as head coach. Have you talked with him yet?

Yes, and I sent him a message yesterday to congratulate him. I also said that in person when he was about to sign. I think this is a very good decision.

Did you think Tito would be Pep’s replacement when he announced he was leaving?

Honestly, no. But then it just clicked, when Zubi talked to us and said Tito would be the head coach, it made perfect sense. This will allow us to continue doing our job under the same premises: Tito will take this team as Pep’s inheritance.

You are pleased, as Tito is crazy about football.

Yes, of course, but I am pleased also because Tito comes from Barça, he is hard working and humble. He has Barça principles. I insist: this is a very good decision.

How do you imagine Tito’s version of Barça?

I am optimistic. I know Tito very well, he is very respected in the dressing room, he has strength and personality, although he doesn’t seem to sometimes, as he has played a wonderful part as second coach. He loves football, he knows us very well, he is much like Pep in that area. He also works tactics in a fantastic way. I am optimistic by nature, so I like the club’s decision, I think it has been a brave decision, to choose a coach from Barça’s system. I think he is ready.

Do you think there will be some changes with him in charge?

He has a different personality from Guardiola’s, but I think the base will be the same as it was before.

For now, Tito has been clear by saying Alves will stay.

That’s great news for me. I get along really well with Dani on and off the field. He is the world’s best right back for me.

Alves is very important for this team, isn’t he?

Yes, absolutely.

Do you miss him in Spain? I mean, having a player like him?

Yes, I do, but we play differently in the national team. Perhaps the left back attacks more here, we do it different than at Barça, where Dani goes forward more often. Here, Jordi Alba does, while Arbeloa stays in his place more, being more defensive.

Speaking of Jordi Alba, it seems he will join you at Barça next season…

It seem it’s nearly done, I hope so. He is a wonderful player, and a great guy too. And he was raised at Barça as well, being competitive, a good defender but also attacks really well. He has great football vision.

Piqué said the other day that Jordi Alba made an impression on him. For you too?

I have been watching him for a while. I think he is more than ready to play at [our] high level. When he plays with better players he improves even more.

Now moving on to Cesc, how is he? [after scoring against Ireland, where he celebrated with a bit of anger]

When a player doesn’t get involved in a game, it’s obvious he would like to. He scored against Italy, then he didn’t start against Ireland but still scored. He is very important for the national team, the coach said this the other day, and he knows it. The coach counts on him.

Do you miss Villa?

Yes, I do, a lot, as he is the top scorer.

And Puyol?

He is a natural leader, he involves and shares that with the entire defense, but we are doing okay. We miss them both, but we are holding on well, Spain is playing good football and is one of the favourites to win the tournament.

Were you surprised by criticism after the game against Italy?

I know where all that came from, and I also understand some people only care about the result. People want us to win, and most of them don’t care whether we play good or bad football. We had a good game, I had the feeling we were playing semifinals or quarter finals. Spain played some really good football and so did Italy. That, despite the fact that the field wasn’t in great condition [it was really dry], and we cannot forget the two last World Cup champions were facing each other.

And then came the game against Ireland, when Spain played wonderfully, and so did you…

I enjoy playing for the national team, my team mates are great, they of course are similar to the ones at Barça. Silva might have some resemblances to Leo at certain occasions, then Torres upfront, Cesc, Andrés… I give passes and I need players in front of me to do so, so I feel great playing here.

In that game, you and Piqué tried the same play you do at Barça, on a corner kick…

We spoke about doing that with Del Bosque. That’s a play that Tito invented, by the way. The coach has been studying the way we do those set piece plays at Barça and he likes them. We also tried a block with Ramos and Piqué, something we usually do at Barça and the NT.

You’ll play Croatia now, how do you see them?

They are a difficult side, very much like Germany. They like to have the ball, but they are also very strong and talented. They have Están Modric, Rakitic and  Nico Kranjac. They have real ‘beasts’ [great players] playing upfront. We have to wait and see what they will do, but I think it will be a good game.

There is a lot of talk about a possible draw, that will leave Italy out.

We are going out there to win. People say a 2-2 draw will leave Italy out, but we’re going after the game. Spain always goes out there to win the games.

I know you like to go slowly, but there might be some dangerous games ahead, against England or France…

England likes to play counter attack, and very tight at the back. France are playing really well, they like to play like Barça. That’s a team to notice. And Germany too, right?

Source: Mundo Deportivo; Images: MD, GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images