Xavier “Xavi” Hernández Creus is a Spanish professional footballer who plays as a central midfielder for Qatari club Al Sadd SC. Xavi came through La Masia, the Barcelona youth academy, at the age of 11. He made his first-team debut against Mallorca in August 1998. Since then he has played 700 matches, scored 82 goals and made more than 180 assists for over 50 players. Xavi is the first player in Barcelona’s history to play 150 international matches.Highly regarded for his humble persona and team ethos, Xavi is viewed as being the embodiment of the tiki-taka passing style of play, and is considered to be one of the greatest central midfielders of all time. He is also considered by some to be Spain’s greatest ever player.
The claim that Xavi is one of the best central midfielders of all-time relies largely on his ability to find and exploit space. As he said: “That’s what I do: look for spaces. All day. I’m always looking”. Finding space, he would appear for a team-mate to receive and then move the ball on, with his coach Pep Guardiola putting it: ‘I get the ball, I give the ball, I get the ball, I give the ball’.
Xavi’s abnormally good vision, pinpoint accurate passing and world class ball control allow him to dictate the flow of play while rarely relinquishing possession. His ability to completely control some matches has earned him the sobriquet, “The Puppet Master. A style introduced to the club by former coach Johan Cruyff, Barcelona president Sandro Rosell believed Xavi, together with Messi, Iniesta and Busquets, perfected the club’s tiki-taka style of play.
On 5 August 2014, following the 2014 FIFA World Cup where Spain were eliminated at the group stage, Xavi announced his retirement from international football having made 133 appearances for the national side in a 14-year period.
Spain’s World Cup winning manager Vicente del Bosque paid tribute, stating that Xavi was ‘a key part of the team’s style of play’ and ‘he was more important to us than even the manager’, and added ‘We will miss him both on and off the pitch. He is a player who we hold in great esteem both personally and as a player. He is and always will be a person and a player who is greatly valued by the federation, the coaching staff and by myself.’