In an interview with Sport this Friday, Xavi shared his thoughts on last season and Pep’s departure from FC Barcelona. He also confirmed what most of us already knew: how crazy he is about football. The following are excerpts from the interview, the original can be found here.
What does this quote, “football is not a life or death matter – it’s much more than that”, mean to you?
It is a very familiar sentence. I have it above my bed. I read it every day before I go to sleep.
Do you admire Bill Shankly that much?
I think that sentence sums it all up. It’s a way of living football, it represents my passion and my way of living my profession. Football is everything to me and it has given me everything. I have worked hard to get where I am now, but I have been lucky, and I am happy to work at what I enjoy doing the most, and even more now with all this crisis. I see so many people that are having a rough time, so I feel privileged. I hope I can enjoy this for years to come. I am enjoying this.
And all this, despite your muscular problems, right?
The thing is that I like to play, like always, all the time. Dr. Pruna and Dr. Ricards told me many times “you are screwed, you can’t play for 10 or 15 days”, and I was playing the next day! My problem this season is that I have played while injured. It’s not like I have missed so many games or had major muscular injuries, but I have played with pain.
When you were subbed against Madrid in the Camp Nou, we saw you pissed off…
I don’t want to think too much about that day. I was forcing myself to play, but I was feeling good playing… we needed to draw at that point. It was a disappointment to me but just that… I wasn’t selfish as I never have been… but I forgot about it in a minute and was cheering for the team, I celebrated our goal as much as anyone and suffered with Cristiano’s goal too…
Being knocked out of the Champions League against Chelsea was a huge disappointment, wasn’t it?
It was. The worst moments in the past four seasons have been the Cup final we lost and the two Champions League semifinals we lost.
Which one was more painful: Inter or Chelsea?
It was so unfair. The game against Inter they did something, they defended very well, we didn’t have many chances to score, but this semifinal had a lot of mistakes and unfortunate situations, like missing clear chances to score, missing a penalty, we had so many chances to score, we were up by 2-0, they had a player sent off, etc. That cannot happen again. The day against Inter we had 2 goals to surpass, it was harder. We had everything to win against Chelsea, it was in our hands. But both were big disappointments.
Who were you rooting for in the CL final?
Chelsea had Torres and Mata, and I felt bad for them, but I was rooting for Bayern. Their football style is much better than Chelsea’s, it’s clear. But I enjoyed the final. It seemed Chelsea were destined to win it. Drogba scored the winner and he is the hero… that’s football, it is decided by small things, details.
It seems this year the Ballon D’Or will be a tough call. What do you think?
It has to be for Messi, that is clear. Even when Mourinho says it has to be for Cristiano Ronaldo because he has won La Liga. It is understandable as Mourinho is Cristiano’s coach, but people who understand about football know the real answer. Messi has two speeds: speed of foot and speed of mind. The rest of us have only one. There is no other footballer that has those two speeds. That is why he is the number one, the best.
Is is true that Leo is Barça’s boss?
What do you mean?
I mean that he decides which players leave, like Eto’o or Ibra, or that he has to play every minute of every game…
Those are decisions the coach makes. He didn’t count with Ibra or Eto’o at some point because he thought that was the right thing. Messi is heard in the dressing room like any other player. The decisions we make are discussed with everyone. The group of captains (and Leo is the fifth) consult with everyone to make decisions. This is no dictatorship with a coach or a player being the dictator.
Before knowing about Pep’s departure, you said the dressing room was not ready to let him go. Are you ready now?
I said that when we didn’t know that Tito would be appointed as head coach. It is really good for us to have this continuity. Tito will take Pep’s work and will continue it. We see he is prepared and we respect him a lot. We are fully behind him. He knows a lot about football, he transmits passion, he lives football the way Pep did. He’s much like Pep, but he has let Pep lead the team as the second coach. Now it’s his turn to lead this. And I see him very well set to the task.
Why does the ‘entorno’ have so many doubts on Tito? (‘entorno’=bad press, fans and former directors)
The ‘entorno’ has doubts about everything. They also doubted that Iniesta and I could play together, or about Pep being a good coach, or Messi having bad times when he is not scoring so much. Our ‘entorno’ is very demanding, but it’s the way it is, this is Barça. I was asked my opinion about Cruyff saying something, and I replied that this is Barça, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I have lived this for fourteen years so I know what this is all about. We are ready to hear whatever Laporta, Cruyff or anyone has to say. We just focus on doing our job and proving we are a winning team.
What did you feel when Cristiano openly spoke about the “end of an era” at Barça?
I cannot disagree more with him. What end of an era is this? Us winning 14 out of 19 titles and them 2 of 19? This season we have won 4 out of 6 titles, and them, 1 out of 4. I don’t see an “end of an era” anywhere.
Have you visited Abidal after he left the hospital?
Not yet, but I have spoken to him a lot. Also, I happen to know his doctor as he also performed surgery on a friend’s father. He told me Abi is doing fine, stable, that he had some problems at the beginning, but normal for a massive thing like a liver transplant. Abi has set a huge example for us. The biggest in my sports career and my entire life. All we have to do is thank him for what he has done for Barça. His family is impressive too. We were all emotional when we visited his home before the surgery.
Will Villa be the best signing for next season?
We have seen him struggle, we have suffered with him, he has worked really hard to get to the Eurocup but he couldn’t make it in the end. He has been very honest to say he’s not fit. We need him both for the national team and Barça. We have missed him tremendously at Barça, as he scoring ability is unique. He is also a great friend.
Did you have the chance of telling Pep goodbye?
I did, although he’s not much for talking. He reunited all of us after the charity game last weekend in the Camp Nou, where he thanked us for our work these years. I told him we will miss him, and he said the same.
No, we have had enough tears this year.
Source and Image: Sport