Champions League perfect passers

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In the Barcelona system, possession is the perfect means to an end - that end being a victory - and there are no more influential masters of the pass than Xavi.

The Barcelona midfielder has become a fixture on the Ballon d'Or shortlist by perfecting that most fundamental of skills - the short pass.

His range covers the whole spectrum, his weight of pass always measured to the last drop. He's made the basic 5-yard ball an art, something to be admired.

Part of the trick relies upon timing, not just technique. He draws in his opposite number then pops it off in the blink of an eye, and then he's gone  again. You look back, and he's on the ball again, only this time he's 10 yards away and you've lost him. Then Leo Messi gets the ball, probably after an Andres Iniesta shimmy, and you're 1-0 down. That's how it works at the Nou Camp.

On Wednesday evening against Paris St Germain, Barcelona demonstrated the extent to which their best player (who also happens to be the world's best) makes them better. Needless to say that applies to every team - Spurs are better with Bale, Madrid with Ronaldo, etc.

His introduction turned the game, and after a brief scare Barcelona progressed to the semi-finals.

But, in the aftermath of the result, a statistical anomaly caught the eye. It first got traction, as is the case these days, on Twitter.

Did you know Xavi Hernandez completed every pass - all 96 - tonight? Retweets spread the word, and stats-based apps proved it, showing a digital map of the pitch populated exclusively by green pixels. Bright green arrows pointing every which way - green, green, green, completed, completed, completed.

96 passes were attempted by the Spaniard at the Nou Camp, every single one successful. 90 minutes of perfect passing seems ludicrous, but it's actually been done before. In fact, several times before.

According to the Daily Mail, since the 2003-04 season 11 players - including Xavi - have completed the perfect game.

It has to be said, none of the other 10 had attempted and completed as many as 96. But they're impressive milestones nonetheless.

Barcelona's love of the football skews possession stats, giving Xavi an above-average number of touches. But his careful distribution was also achieved by others in less famously dominant sides.

Emmanuel Eboue at Arsenal completed 54 from 54, John Terry managed 47 from 47 back in 2008, while Javier Zanetti kept Tottenham at bay in 2010, completing 72 from 72. 

You might have noticed that defenders dominate the stats, and it makes sense. Time and space at the back is easier to come by at Champions League level, at least compared to central midfield.

In fact, Xavi is only the second midfielder since 2004 to complete the feat - the first was Paulo Vinicius for Braga last year. But he completed just 48 - exactly half the volume of Xavi.

Further forward and we find ourselves up front. If central midfield is a cluster of bodies, encouraging the give and go or the sharp pass, then the final third promotes individuality.

Passing in and around the penalty box is the most difficult, if only because the defending becomes more frenzied, the desire to protect the increasingly vulnerable goal more great.

And that makes Cristiano Ronaldo's perfect passing game last season equally impressive. He managed 50 from 50 against Manchester City in the group stage at the Bernabeu, a magnificent feat considering he also scored the game-winner.

Few mentioned the stat that day, but Xavi is renowned for his passing in a position associated with it. The fact that Barcelona are synonymous with possession also helps, as does the scale of his achievement - 96 being almost double Ronaldo's tally.

Anyway, Xavi's total ensures that he sits top of the pile when it comes to Champions League competition over the past 10 years - and to be honest, we can't think of a more worthy record-holder. Xavi is the pass master - here's the proof.

These are the only players to have 100 per cent pass accuracy in the Champions League since the 2003-04 season...

Barcelona v PSG | 2013 | Xavi | 96/96 passes attempted/completed

Inter vs Tottenham | 2010 | Javier Zanetti | 72/72

FC Porto vs Arsenal | 2006 | Emmanuel Eboue | 54/54

Barcelona vs Stuttgart | 2007 | Lilian Thuram | 50/50

Real Madrid vs Man City | 2012 | Cristiano Ronaldo | 50/50

Braga vs Galatasaray | 2012| Paulo Vinicius  | 48/48

Basel vs Barcelona | 2006 | Martin Caceres | 48/48

Chelsea vs Werder Bremen | 2008 | John Terry | 47/47

FC Porto vs Dynamo Kiev | 2006 | Rolando | 45/45

Roma vs Real Madrid | 2004 | Ivan Helguera | 43/43

Real Madrid vs Dinamo Zagreb | 2011 | Sergio Ramos | 43/43

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