Xavi is the past and present of Barcelona. And, after learning about the new lifelong contract offer that Sandro Rosell has sent his way, I couldn't be happier to find out that he will most definitely be part of our future as well.
Xavi's agent announced today: "Last Friday, Barcelona sent us its intention to renew the contract because they want Xavi to sign a new deal. We have always agreed in previous talks and there have never been problems of any kind. For the player it is very important to know that the club remains confident in him. Therefore I do not think there is any problem."
A difficult start
Although it may sound ridiculous given his current legendary status, Xavi had to work extra hard to earn his spot in Barcelona's first team as a teenager. Louis Van Gaal gave him his professional debut back in 1998 but had fierce competition from a certain Mr Pep Guardiola for a starting spot in midfield. Our former Dutch coach famously preferred muscle and height to raw technical ability but, perhaps surprisingly given the circumstances, Xavi began earning more and more playing time.
In fact, the Catalan youngster was offered a ludicrous contract at Milan during his early career, as his simple yet effective passing approach didn't go unnoticed for long. While many youngsters in his position may have happily taken the money and hoped for the best, his Catalan heart forced him to stay, hoping that his dream of succeeding at the Camp Nou came true one day.
Which it did.
637 appearances and 20 Barcelona trophies later, millions of Cules around the world simply can't imagine Barcelona without him. Star players such as Rivaldo, Ronaldinho or Eto'o came and went. So did coaches like Rijkaard or Guardiola himself. Xavi is still here, flying the Blaugrana flag with pride, delighting us with commanding performances at 32 years of age.
Barcelona may never find another Xavi
The media has been talking about Xavi's succession for a good couple of seasons now. While it's obvious some of the remaining players are able to play in the interior position to a very high standard, I feel Barcelona may never be able to find another Xavi, as whoever wants to fill the gap will have extremely big boots to fill.
I'm obviously not saying that Barcelona will die whenever our midfield maestro retires, quite the contrary: Our club's attacking system has evolved gradually since the Johan Cruyff era back in the 1990s and it is only natural that it will continue to do so for years to come. It will definitely be time for a new upgrade whenever Commander Hernandez leaves us.
Explained Xavi himself: "I pass and I move, I help you, I look for you, I stop, I raise my head, I look and, above all, I open up the pitch. I defend with the ball. Once I have the ball, I pass it. I use the spaces, I pause, I turn, I look for one-twos and double passes."
Sounds complicated? Well, it is.
The key to replacing Xavi will be analyzing the way he impacted and improved our system, then distribute his responsibilities within those who remain in the team. His innate ability to pace the game, distribute the ball into space and patiently wait for an eventual opening is exceptional but, then again, players such as Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Thiago or Sergio Busquets are enjoying the privilege of learning alongside him and, together, are perfectly capable of ensuring his legacy continues.
A remarkable attitude
I would like to end by highlighting the fact that, despite the huge amount of silverware Xavi has accumulated, I am mostly impressed by Xavi's impeccable attitude on and off the pitch. The fact that he has been able to keep his friendship with Iker Casillas (and even won the prestigious Principe De Asturias award for it!) despite the ferocious El Clasico battles against Real Madrid since Jose Mourinho took over at the Bernabeu exemplifies the kind of person he is: Understanding, charismatic and a truly proactive leader whose values go far beyond the club shirt he so proudly wears.
Let's hope injuries respect Xavi's greatness so that Cules can continue to admire his brilliant football for many years to come.
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