I remember arguing. I lived in a country without accessible La Liga coverage, the Internet was not anywhere near what it is now (but whether that is a bad thing is debatable), and FC Barcelona too rarely made a significant splash in the Champions League. Fortunately I had special satellite channels and could watch my beloved Barça. And while myself and my young football aficionados friends concocted during recess the world’s best 11, as you do, getting Xavi into the midfield was a constant battle. They just wouldn’t hear it. It had to be Scholes, Zidane, Seedorf, Redondo, or perhaps to add some steel Vieira or Davids. I never relented and repeated, “Guys, Xavi is the best passing midfielder in football”. This was in 1999/2000. Not too long later the argument evolved to, “Guys, in fact he could be the best midfielder I’ve ever seen”. The majority rarely pays attention to things that don’t sparkle, and as a unit FC Barcelona were quite a mess back then. But he never was.
A lot has changed since then and it’s been truly wonderful seeing Xavi slowly but eventually completely earning the recognition and praise he deserves. Those who know the game admit easily that Xavi is among the best footballers to ever play the game. On the back of his contract extension fcbarcelona.com published a story looking back on the top 10 moments of Xavi Hernández’s footballing career culé. A career in which he boasts the most ever appearances for FC Barcelona and play with the most major titles.
August 18, 1998:
Debut in the Copa del Rey away leg to Mallorca. The team lost 2-1 but Xavi got the only goal. The youngster (18) was actually on holiday and had to rush back to Barcelona to join the senior squad when called upon by then manager Louis van Gaal.
December 20, 1998:
A headed goal versus Valladolid secured 3 points for Barça. That victory sparked the comeback in the league and eventually securing it on the team’s centenary year.
April 25, 2004:
Xavi loops the ball over Casilla’s head after latching onto a sublime Ronaldinho assist to give FC Barcelona a 2-1 victory at the Bernabeu. This was the season Frank Rijkaard took charge and at the midway point the team languished just points off relegation. The second half of the season however was historic and a 2nd place finish was earned.
In fact this goal, this specific moment is spoken about with historic importance. In The Blizzard: Issue Four, Barcelona based journalist Graham Hunter describes that win from that goal to “mark a shift in power, an augmentation of the confidence which would be constantly repeated over the next seven years”. Xavi himself said: “that win, that late goal having been one down, changed the winning mentality with which Madrid had dominated Barça”.
May 14, 2005:
Xavi is integral in the team that wins the La Liga crown, ending a 6-year title drought.
September 19, 2007:
Xavi equals the Champions League (European Cup) appearances record (85) by a FC Barcelona player previously held by Migueli.
May 27, 2009:
Man on the match in the Champions League final 2-0 victory over Manchester United. One will never forget the perfect cross to Lionel Messi’s head to secure the title.
December 1, 2009:
3rd place finish in the Ballon d’Or. Later that month Barça would beat Estudiantes to claim the 6th title of Pep Guardiola’s historic first season.
November 29, 2010:
Xavi draws first blood on the magical 5-0 demolition of Real Madrid. I was at that game, spoke to fans that had watched for decades, and it was common consensus that was the best performance FC Barcelona had ever given. Other football people said it was perhaps the greatest every 90 minutes performance any team had ever given.
January 5, 2011:
Match 550. Xavi then became the most capped FC Barcelona player of all time.
May 28, 2011:
Started the match as captain for the 3-1 victory in Wembley against Manchester United, securing his 3rd Champions League medal.
Oh, and between all Xavi was indispensible in Spain wining the 2008 European Championship, the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and then the 2012 European Championship.
I don’t think I would have much argument anymore putting him in a global best 11. Possibly not even into a historic best 11.
Image Credit: goal.com