His playing style, passing, and control of the game completely changed the outlook of a perfect midfielder. A small, agile, and technically gifted player with an outstanding vision, these attributes compensated for his lack of pace or physicality.
Born and raised in Barcelona, Xavi joined La Masia at the age of 11. His talent was recognized from a very young age as he came through the ranks of the youth team to become one of the key members of the Barcelona B team that won the promotion to the Segunda division. The Barcelona youngster was on the verge of joining Milan, as his father had given a go-ahead but it was his mother who threatened to divorce if Xavi left Barca. This proved to be the right decision for both the player and the Blaugrana.
With a string of impressive performances, Xavi was promoted to the first team. Later, he became a key part of Barcelona’s first team as he won his first league title and finished his debut season by playing 26 games and was named the 1999 LaLiga Breakthrough Player of the Year. Xavi’s growth continued, after becoming a regular starter in midfield, but in a more defensive role, Xavi provided 20 assists and 7 goals in two seasons. Xavi suffered a major injury next season as he tore his ligaments in his left knee and was out for four months but returned in April and was on the bench when Barcelona played Arsenal in the 2006 Champions League final.
At Euro 2008, Xavi was named the Player of the Tournament, which attracted offers from various clubs as Bayern and Xavi discussed a potential transfer. But Pep Guardiola, his former teammate became manager and convinced him to stay at the club in 2008.
Xavi was one of the key figures in that treble–winning side as he scored one in the Spanish Cup final and assisted Messi’s goal in the Champions League final against Manchester United. One of his standout moments came against Real Madrid when Barcelona hammered their arch-rivals 6-2 at the Bernabeu, in which Xavi assisted four goals. Xavi’s assist tally was magnificent as the Spaniard produced 20 assists in LaLiga and 7 in the Champions League. Xavi again topped the assists chart as Barcelona won the league with a record of 99 points.
After the 2010 World Cup triumph, the chemistry between Xavi, Pedro, Villa, Iniesta, Busquets, Pique, Puyol was unreal as Pep’s Barca dominated games from start to finish. In the 2011 Champions League final against Manchester United, Xavi assisted the opening goal by retaining the ball inside the Man United half. In his prime, Xavi was idolized by many for his style of play.
His ability to retain the ball, high pass success rate, ability to break the lines and find spaces made him a perfect midfielder. Barcelona and Spain dominated the world with Xavi and his teammates performed at a very top level. Spain defended their European crown as Xavi and co. emerged victorious again in 2012. Xavi was again breaking lines through his exquisite passes as he assisted two goals in the final.
In his thirties, Xavi was still pulling the strings for Barca but the Catalans had started to about replacing him in the coming years. Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas were academy products but the quality and precision in which Xavi controlled Barca’s tempo was irreplaceable. Today, Joshua Kimmich and Toni Kroos have a similar style to what Xavi had but his uniqueness is still unmatched.
Barcelona in the hunt for a Champions League title appointed Luis Enrique, who convinced Xavi to stay for another year in 2014. It turned out to be a dream farewell for Xavi as Barcelona wrapped up another treble in 2015 and Xavi lifted the Champions League trophy as his last honor as a Barcelona player.
Xavi finished his career with 28 trophies and many individual honors to his name. Xavi was the heartbeat of the Barcelona and Spanish midfield as he dictated the tiki-taka style of play with pass after pass. He didn’t score many goals or made any harsh tackles, he just produced passes after passes with precision.
His signature move involved him performing a 360–degree turn, which allowed him to move away from his opponent and provided time and space to find his teammate. Xavi’s outstanding vision and superb reading of the game allowed him to find his teammates and dictate the flow of passes in the midfield.
Xavi’s ability to control games earned him the nickname, The Puppet Master. His presence influenced the way his whole team played as Spain and Barcelona dominated possession and made their opponents look silly by simply playing one-touch football. He was also known for his leadership and professionalism by his former teammates and managers. Many regard him as one of the best passers of the game as well as one of the greatest player makers in history