Jorge Valdano once mused if football was a science, Xavi would have discovered the formula.
The day after Barcelona wrote more headlines with their 3-0 win over Liverpool in the Champions League semi-final first leg last season, La Masia’s most celebrated son announced he was calling time on a magnificent playing career.
Xavi, who last played in Qatar, sits alongside the greatest central midfielders to have ever laced up a pair of boots. After fulfilling the potential spotted by renowned talent-developer Louis van Gaal, he began to rewrite the rulebook.
No one in the 21st century embodied the essence of Cruyffian football more than Xavier Hernández Creus.
To some, he’s a footballing romantic, keen to spread the gospel of Johan Cruyff which has brought Barça unprecedented success. For others, the metronomic Catalan comes across as a fundamentalist.
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Though he denies the latter, stressing football can be expressed however anyone interprets it, the manner in which Xavi discusses the beautiful game – while putting forward his manifesto – is almost as intoxicating as watching him play it.
If there’s one aspect of the game he puts above all else it’s keeping possession.
Clearing the ball is an intellectual defeat
– Xavi (So Foot), 2018.
Xavi, who took ball circulation to new heights, couldn’t have been a better proponent of Cruyff’s vision, which counters what some dub ‘kick and rush’.
A move into coaching was the next natural step for this footballing genius. He seems destined to return home if recent rumours are to go by, and like kindred spirit Pep Guardiola – whom he famously succeeded in Barça’s first-team – he has first embarked on his own coaching journey of self-discovery.
Xavi currently manages Al Sadd in Qatar but, somewhat inevitably, reports over a potential move to the Camp Nou dugout have begun to emerge. Pressure is mounting on Ernesto Valverde and Xavi would undoubtedly be a popular choice in the eyes of fans who believe the club has lost its way on the 55-year-old’s watch.
Xavi would be resuming at the Camp Nou from a good place. Football, as he’s shown, is more than technique, skill and physical gifts. Talent alone isn’t sufficient, one also needs a ‘football brain’.
It’s why someone like Arthur was heralded with comparisons to La Masia’s most celebrated son upon his arrival at the Camp Nou. Xavi’s excellency is now Barça’s gold standard.
It almost seems a natural progression that Xavi, a proponent of Cruyffian football and Pep-ball, should one day take his seemingly habitual position in the Camp Nou dugout. Barca fans will now be hoping to see this come to fruition and for their prodigal son to lead the club back to those halcyon days.