Xavi: The Maestro of Space and Time. 

“When God created space, Xavi was already there.” 

The 5’7″ Spanish Maestro exerted an outsize influence on Barça and Spain’s football with his movement, his ability to play in and out of tight spaces, and his aberrant calm and anticipation. 2 seasons since he left for Qatar, the Catalans still haven’t found his successor. 

In a game, many things happen by accident. Xavi is the antidote to all that. With him, you could bet your head he won’t mess up. 

Like a chess player, he saw the endgame 10 moves before it happened. 

Xavi was the game. Everything gyrated around him. 

He’s the only player who doesn’t look down at the ball while it’s moving towards his feet. 

The ball seemed stuck to his feet by a yo-yo string – he pinged it around and it kept coming back. The people playing around him constantly gave him the ball, as if requiring him to venerate each move. Xavi hogged the ball selfishly, and offered goal-scoring chances selflessly. 

He could weave passes through a needle lost in the bushes. The pass in the 2009 UCL Final stands as a testimony to this. 

His lusciously-weighted aerial pass that assisted the second goal – it stayed cleared of the 6’2″ Rio Ferdinand and the 6’5″ Edwin van der Sar, to be headed into the back of the net by a 5’7″ Lionel Messi. 

His game was about a search for space. It necessitated constant movement. Throughout the course of a game, Xavi ran more than almost any other player. Just because he made it look easy, doesn’t mean it was easy. You could try keeping your eyes on him for an entire game – and he’s still fool you. He seemed to drift through, making shortpass after short pass, occasionally throwing off his invisibility cloak to point out where he wanted the ball.

Then he’d make a trenchant pass – twenty yards or two, it doesn’t matter – and the rhythm of the game changes. He’d create a chance, or maybe even a goal. Then, the whirligig starts again. 

Xavi was the human accelerator, governing the pace of the game by putting his foot on and off the gas pedal.

He wasn’t a highlight-reel friendly footballer. He didn’t do flashy skills. Neither did he perform lung-bursting heroics. 

All he did was pass and be in the right place. He did the simple things right. And that’s the most difficult thing to do. 

Xavi’s departure forced Messi, Iniesta and Busquets to tweak their game. They had to make adjustments to fill the void. Yet, it’s somehow there. 

Barça acquired Xavi for free but, have to shell close to a 100M to replace him. 

But, the fact still remains that he’s irreplaceable. 

Messi turns 30: Fútbol redefined.

It was 10th March, 2007. The world watched with bated breath as Barcelona took on Real Madrid.

Everyone was looking forward to the mouth-watering clash between Van Nistelrooy and Ronaldinho. Little did they know that there was something more in store.

Van Nistelrooy put Madrid in the lead twice. But, it was the diminutive 19 year old from Rosario, Lionel Messi who put Barcelona on level terms. However, everything seemed to fall apart when Oleguer was sent off, reducing the Catalans to 10 men.

Sergio Ramos’ goal, 17 minutes from full time seemed like the final nail in the coffin.

But, the bandana donning Messi had other ideas.

In stoppage time, La Pulga latched onto a pass by Ronaldinho, dribbled past two defenders and slotted it home past a helpless Cassillas to complete a hat-trick and salvage a point for Barcelona.

As the commentator said, “This will be remembered as the Lionel Messi match. 19 years of age and gets a hat-trick against Real Madrid”. So has it turned out to be.

People at the Camp Nou and football fans all around the world knew that they were watching something special.

He had outclassed and overshadowed Van Nistelrooy and Ronaldinho, all by himself.

With that goal, Barcelona moved onto the top of the Liga (tied with Sevilla), while the Los Blancos slipped to the 4th spot.

10 years down the lane, the greasy haired bandana donning Messi looks more composed, more manly. He now sports a beard, or rather a mane. He’s covered in tattoos. Even dyed his hair platinum blonde once.

However, one thing remains the same; his love for the game.

You can still see that 19 year old running at defenses when he picks up the ball. Terrorising defenders on his way, ruining careers.

But, at the same time inducing emotions that we never felt before.

Weaving past players, making them look like training cones, threading eye-gasmic passes, scoring blinders – Leo made us crave for more. He became the medicine we needed to fix everything going wrong in our lives.

He kisses and caresses the ball at his feet. And, it’s at these moments that wins and losses become trivial, insubstantial matters. Just watching him on the pitch unfurl his virtuosity, is a win in itself. Watching Leo encompasses you with a wave of emotions. A kind of nostalgia and hope is lit.

Lionel Messi is the science of uncertainty, and the art of probability. He’s the impossibility in this impossible universe.

Watching him play is similar to acknowledging a masterclass by Da Vinci. The ball being his brush and, the pitch his canvas.

In my opinion, he’s probably greater than Einstein.

Einstein wanted to decode space-time. Leo controls it.

Despite all these, he knows how to channel his emotions. He knows how to use it for his benefit.

Being battered everyday by the media, he turns out every 3 days so that we can treat our eyes to his resplendent play. He carries on, despite being abused and spat on by his country men.

He gets walloped for not being able to recreate a myth.

A myth that his countryman Diego Maradona won the World Cup singlehandedly.

Yet, he caries on – giving us moments to cherish.

For everything he’s done, he deserves not being compared to anyone. And again, we haven’t been fair to him in this aspect. Comparing him with anyone is futile, and above all, it’s an insult to the game itself.

The most perfect manifestation of the game of the game being compared to mere mortals is a sin. The purest form of football.

He turns 30 today. Enjoy and watch him as much as you can because, that day is not very far away, when he waves to the stands and disappears into the tunnel for the last time.

I’d just finish this with Johan’s words:

“Thank God Messi exists”