“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.