Xavi - One of Spain and Barca’s most gifted
When the history books are written, 2008-09 will undoubtedly go down as Barcelona’s season.
It was a season in which playmaker Xavi helped the Spanish club to the treble - a feat never achieved previously - and with Barca sitting top of La Liga, not to mention being the heavy favourites to become the first team since 1990 to retain the Champions League, 2010 has all the makings of another phenomenal year.
The player himself has admitted that he is a lifelong Barcelona fan, and has turned down numerous offers of moves away from Spain. The 29-year-old, a product of the Barcelona youth system, has never played for another club after joining aged just 11. And when things are going as they are for Barcelona currently, why would he want to?
Pep Guardiola’s first season in charge at the Camp Nou was an enormous success, but it is the manner in which they achieved their prosperity that deserves the accolades. The brand of football this current Barcelona team play is breathtaking. Stylish, fluid, attacking-minded; the sheer class is there for all to see.
And it is the midfield pairing of Xavi and Iniesta that is the central cog of Guardiola’s engine of domestic domination.
Barca fans will tell you that there is nobody better than Xavi - a claim backed up by the statistics. His passing success rate during the 08-09 Champions League campaign was a staggering 92% - higher than any other player.
But more impressive is his unerring ability to slice defences open, spotting his runs team-mates’ runs and executing that one pass with deadly accuracy.
Across all of the European leagues last season, Xavi produced the highest number of assists, setting up 20 goals for his Barcelona team-mates - nine more than any other player in any of Europe’s top five leagues.
Following the conclusion of the domestic season, the midfield maestro will immediately turn his attentions to South Africa and the World Cup. At Euro 2008 Xavi was pivotal to Spain’s success, memorably producing a perfectly-weighted pass that allowed Fernando Torres to score the winner against Germany in the final.
Spain, despite never having won a World Cup, are the favourites to win next summer’s competition.
And whichever way Barcelona and Spain’s title hunts go this year, we are fortunate to be able to witness the astonishing natural footballing ability of one of Barcelona’s greatest home-grown talents.