One of the most influential figures in the change of football witnessed in the modern day, Xavi has announced he will hang up his boots at the end of the season. The 37-year-old, who is currently playing his football in Qatar for Al Sadd SC, joins a list of legends who are calling time on their playing careers this season, alongside fellow midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo.
The Spaniard has enjoyed an illustrious career with Barcelona, where under Pep Guardiola, he helped create the tiki-taka style of play which has changed world football. Known as one of the best passers of the ball, Xavi’s ability to control a game from midfield despite having such a small frame was inspirational, and he will go down as one of the best of all time.
And in such a glittering career, it’s difficult to narrow down the best moments to celebrate – but here are five of the 37-year-old’s career highlights…
1. Making His Debut
Jose Mourinho watched over Xavi’s first game for the Barcelona first-team, as boss Louis van Gaal opted to give his assistant the reigns for their Copa Catalunya fixture against Lleida.
Xavi entered the field of play at just 18 years of age and helped his side to a narrow 2-1 victory, sending his side through to play CE Europa in the final. Unfortunately for Xavi, Barca missed out on the trophy on penalties following a 1-1 draw in normal time.
2. His First Goal
Alongside his debut, this is another obvious career highlight. His first goal for the club was a crucial one, as he scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Real Valladolid in 1998. Surprisingly, his first goal was actually a header; the midfielder rose high to power the ball into the back of the net.
Xavi was in and out of the team at the time, but performances like the one he put in against Valladolid helped him cement a place in the starting eleven going forward.
3. Wearing the Captain’s Armband
For Xavi, who had come up through the ranks at Barcelona, being made captain would’ve been one of the greatest honours in his career. The midfielder was never the most vocal on the field, but he had the ability to keep his side ticking in crucial games by trusting that everyone knew what their roles were.
He was made vice-captain to Carlos Puyol back in 2005 in a year that he was also named Best Spanish Player in La Liga.
4. Winning the Treble
Winning the treble is a remarkable achievement for any player and any club, and Xavi was part of the unstoppable Barcelona team who took home La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. In a season where he registered 29 assists, Xavi was crucial to Barca’s success and he set up Messi for the second goal in their 2-0 win over Manchester United in the Champions League final.
Barca finished the league nine points ahead of second placed Real Madrid, scoring 105 goals in the process. They also battered Athletic Bilbao 4-1 in the Copa del Rey final in a defining season for both the club and for Xavi.
5. 6-2 Bernabeu Rout
Xavi has experienced some great highs and some horrible lows for Barcelona in games against Real Madrid, and their 6-2 victory at the Bernabeu will sit right at the top of the pile. The game started with Real taking the lead through Gonzalo Higuain, but it went downhill pretty quickly from there.
Theirry Henry and Lionel Messi both grabbed a brace, and centre-backs Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique also managed to bag, topping off a monumental victory for Pep Guardiola’s side. Xavi was again incredibly influential, as he registered four assists during the game.