Barcelona icon Xavier Hernandez, or as most football fans will fondly remember him, Xavi, turns 42 years old today.
Whilst the Spaniard has now retired and moved into management, his status as one of the best midfielders of all time will live on forever.
There are probably hundreds of matches to choose from when discussing Xavi’s incredible performances, but this one stands out in particular. The midfielder not only racked up four assists but did so against his club’s biggest rivals.
Despite Pep Guardiola’s team being scattered with superstars across the board, Xavi still found a way to sit head and shoulders above the rest at the Bernabeu. The final scoreline of 6-2 is one of Barcelona’s most impressive results in the club’s history, and Xavi was absolutely instrumental in almost every aspect of the team’s victory.
Xavi has gone down in history for his ridiculously dynamic passing range and ability to glide through the centre of the pitch with the ball at his feet, combined with a footballing brain that most players can only dream of. During the game against Real Madrid, all of the maestro’s superpowers were on full display.
The midfielders individual highlights package from the game is a sight to behold. The video is something you would expect at the end of a season, with all of a player’s highlights combined into one video, never mind a single game.
Xavi’s first assist of the night came from a free kick on the edge of the box near the byline, the midfielder whipped the ball into space on the edge of the six-yard box and it was met perfectly by the head of Carles Puyol.
His second assist came after the Spaniard pounced on Lassana Diarra after a loose touch and dispossessed the defensive midfielder. The tackle rolled the ball straight into the path of the oncoming Messi, who of course, stayed calm and slotted past the keeper in style.
Xavi’s third assist of the evening was pure artistry. A lobbed through ball into the path of Thierry Henry that took out the entire Real Madrid midfield and defence in one fell swoop. Iker Casillas rushed out in an attempt to meet the ball before Henry but the goalkeeper was beaten to it and the French striker rolled it around him and into the empty net.
The final assist though was the best of the night. Xavi picked up the ball on the edge of the box, and despite being shut down by two Real Madrid defenders at once, pirouettes away from both of them before laying the ball into the path of Messi. The Argentinian once again calmly slotted the ball down the outside of Casillas.
But even between Xavi’s barrage of assists, every pass finds its target, every dribble has Real Madrid defenders on their toes. The Spaniard glides around the pitch with elegance, controlling the tempo of the game with his one and two-touch passing.
The Barcelona legend finished the 2008/09 campaign with a ridiculous 30 assists across all competitions, and if that wasn’t enough he also chipped in with 10 goals.
It’s safe to say that it could be a long time before we see another midfielder quite like Xavi.