Xavi played with some of the best footballers in the world during his illustrious 24-year career with Barcelona.
Playing with Ronaldinho, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi is an honour that Xavi will probably never stop bragging about. We certainly wouldn’t if we were in his shoes.
With Barcelona being in the same league as Real Madrid and featuring in the Champions League every year since 2004, Xavi has also had the pleasure of playing against some excellent opponents.
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Xavi told the New Arab that Zinedine Zidane and the Brazilian Ronaldo are the toughest opponents he’s ever faced earlier this year, which makes sense considering both won the Ballon d’Or during their playing days.
But what about his toughest English opponent? Xavi enjoyed some fine battles against Manchester United and Chelsea in the Champions League, and also played for Spain against England on four occasions.
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Shortlist Magazine got hold of the 36-year-old to find out just which English player gave him the biggest challenge.
“Paul Scholes, both for skill and as a natural competitor,” was the response. “But both [Steven] Gerrard and [Frank] Lampard were midfield players that would have gotten in to any side in Europe at their peak.”
Xavi and Scholes together?
Scholes and Xavi met in two Champions League finals - the Barcelona man emerging victorious on both occasions - and Xavi, who now plies his trade in Qatar, reiterated his admiration for the former United midfielder by calling him the British player he wished he had played with.
“Ah that’s not even a question – Paul Scholes,” said the Al Sadd midfielder. “But I was never leaving Barcelona and he was never leaving Manchester United, so it wasn’t meant to be.”
A true shame. Xavi and Scholes together in the same midfield would have been a delight to watch.
You have to go back to September 1998 for their first meeting against each other. Xavi was 18, Scholes 23, and Sir Alex Ferguson’s United were taking on Barcelona in the Champions League group stage en route to that remarkable final win against Bayern Munich.
Xavi calls that United team, which included David Beckham, Roy Keane, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, the most difficult English team he played against.
“The two games in the group stages of The Champions League in 1998 against Manchester United I will always remember. I was only a very young player, and their midfield was David Beckham, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs. It was a special team, and no surprise they lifted the trophy that season.”
Who knew then that the two fresh-faced midfielders would go on to have a deep respect for one another.
Where do Xavi and Scholes rank among the best midfielders in football? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below!