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The Top 10 Greatest Footballers of all time No. 10 – Xavi

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Football has seen many great players over the years, many of which were, and continue, to be household names around the globe. The game has changed drastically, but the talent of the players has not, and many of the players who are commonly regarded as some of the best of all time plied their trade well-before the game turned into the mega-business it now is. Every sport has their all-time legends and contemporary stars, and none more so than football, and comparing players of different generations is an impossible task. 

Here at The Sports Lowdown, we attempt to do just that. In our top 1o countdown, our specialist team of football writers will formulate a list of the greatest players of all time in reverse order, commencing at 8am on Monday and finishing at 6pm that same day. 

Pele? Maradona? Messi? Zidane? Keep a watchful eye on proceedings at The Sports Lowdown to find out who we have picked as our top 10 players of all time, and as usual we would love to hear your views, so any comments would be greatly appreciated!


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Number 10 – Xavi 

Xavi kicks off The Sports Lowdown’s list of the greatest footballers of all time, and what a player to start with. It’s rare in modern football that a player sticks with one side throughout his career, but Barcelona legend Xavi has done just that, making over 750 appearances for the Catalan club, winning everything but the kitchen sink. 

Xavier Hernández Cruz was born in Terrassa, Barcelona, and began his football career with the youth team, aged eleven. The short build midfielder, who’s footballing idols were John Barnes, Paul Gascoigne and Matt Le Tissier, was part of Josep Maria Gonzalvo’s Barcelona B side that won promotion to the second division and he would make his first team Barcelona debut during his time with the B side.

Xavi made his senior debut in a friendly against Southampton, before making his competitive debut against Mallorca in the Super Cup final. Despite scoring, Barcelona lost 2-1, but the midfielder made his La Liga debut shortly after in a 3-1 win over Valencia.

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In his first full season as a Barcelona player, Xavi became an integral part of Louis van Gaal’s title winning side, the first of an incredible eight La Liga titles that the midfielder would win, and was also named as the league’s Breakthrough Player of the Year.

Over the course of the next few seasons, Xavi established himself as a regular midfielder for the Catalan club. After fellow midfielder Josep Guardiola suffered an injury in the 1999/00 season, Xavi filled the void in spectacular fashion and successfully adapted to the role he would become synonymous with during his career. It was at this time too that the midfielder would make his debut for Spain.

With Barcelona struggling off the field with financial problems between 2001 and 2003, Xavi recorded twenty assists and seven goals on the field, and netted his first El Clásico goal, and his reputation and impressive performances for the Spanish national side began to grow. It was also in 2002 that Xavi took part in his first senior international competition as Spain reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup, losing to the host nation South Korea on penalties.

In 2004, Xavi was named as the club’s vice captain, and he was part of the side that won the La Liga and Supercopa de España double, before being named as the Spanish Player of the Year. The following season, Xavi and Co. repeated the feat by winning the league and cup double, but added the 2006 Champions League victory to their achievements.

In 2006, Xavi headed to Germany for the World Cup. Spain topped the group unbeaten after wins against Ukraine, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, but lost to eventual runners-up France in the last 16. Despite ultimately ending in disappointment, it was the start of a sensationally successful international career for Xavi, and his experiences in Germany proved invaluable in helping him grow as a player on the international scene.

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With accolades and trophies becoming the normality at Barcelona, Xavi, now a regular for the Spanish national side, was soon to head into the European Championships. Spain, who hadn’t won anything on the international stage since 1964, entered Euro 2008 hopeful, and topped their group with a 100% record after wins against Russia, Sweden and Greece respectively. After defeating Italy on penalties in the quarter-finals and thrashing Russia in the semi’s, where Xavi netted the opener, Spain headed into the final where they would defeat Germany thanks to a Fernando Torres goal, assisted by Xavi. The diminutive midfielder was was named Player of the Tournament, and his reputation grew further.

Upon his return to Barcelona, Xavi held talks with Bayern Munich over a possible move to Germany, but new head coach and former Barcelona midfielder Guardiola convinced him to stay in Spain. And it was a decision neither would regret. Barcelona would go on to win the treble of La Liga, Supercopa de España and Champions League, emulating the achievements of three seasons previous. In that season, Xavi scored a free kick in the 4-1 win over Athletic Bilbao in the Supercopa final, in addition to assisting four of Barcelona’s six goals in their historic 6-2 win over rivals Real Madrid. He also assisted the second goal in the club’s 2-0 Champions League final victory over Manchester United, and was named as the competitions best midfielder.

It didn’t stop there, not by a long shot. The following season, Xavi topped the La Liga assist charts again, including a brace in the El Clásico victory, as Barcelona romped to the La Liga title with a record 99 points.

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Xavi headed back to the international stage, this time the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Spain topped their group despite losing to Switzerland in the opening game, before 1-0 victories against Portugal in the last 16, Paraguay in the quarter-final and Germany in the semi-final. Spain headed to the World Cup final against the Netherlands. As a fiery goalless ninety minutes came to a close and extra time began, Xavi was instrumental in his nation’s most iconic moment, as fellow Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta to struck home the winning goal. Spain, and Xavi, had won the World Cup, and the midfielder, who ended the tournament with an outstanding 91% pass success rate, was named as the World Soccer Player of the Year, in addition to being named in the World Cup All Stars Team.

Back at Barcelona, Xavi signed a new four year deal with the club. He scored in another historic win over rivals Real, this time a 5-0 drubbing over their La Liga counterparts, as the club stormed to another La Liga title. In addition to La Liga, Xavi also won the Supercopa de España and his third Champions League after another final victory over Manchester United. Not only was it a successful season for trophies, but it was also a monumental one for the midfielder on a personal note, as he overtook Migueli’s record appearance figure for the club. Barcelona won the FIFA Club World Cup the following season, with Xavi scoring and assisting in a 4-0 victory over Santos.

2012 spelled another golden year for Xavi on the international stage, as Spain headed to the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine.  Having just won the World Cup and looking to retain their European Championship, Spain again topped their group following wins over the Republic of Ireland and Croatia. Spain progressed after beating France in the quarter-finals, before overcoming Portugal on penalties after a goalless game. Spain headed into the final against Italy having conceded just once all tournament – a 1-1 draw against Italy in the opening group game, and Spain romped to a 4-0 victory, with two assists from Xavi. Spain had successfully defended their title, and became the first nation in history to win three international tournaments in succession. Xavi also became the first player to assist a goal in successive European finals, and was named in the Team of the Tournament.

Xavi was now one of the most decorated modern day footballers, and was named in the FIFA World XI. Another La Liga title followed, in addition to his sixth and final Supercopa de España, before Xavi entered his final tournament as a Spanish Player after announcing his retirement.

Upon the start of the  2014 World Cup in Brazil, Xavi and goalkeeper Iker Casillas joined Andoni Zubizarreti as the only Spanish players to play in four World Cup’s. But the tournament ended in disaster; after a humiliating 5-1 defeat to Netherlands in the opening group game, a 2-0 defeat against Chile ultimately knocked the reigning Champions out of the competition, before Xavi’s final Spanish appearance came in a 3-0 victory over Australia in the final group game.

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Disappointment aside, Xavi headed back to Barcelona to complete his final season at the club after announcing his retirement at the end of the season. He was given the captaincy, and he led the Catalan club to an unprecedented domestic treble – the first Spanish club to do so – after winning La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. In his final appearance, Xavi came off the bench to replace Iniesta as Barcelona beat Juventus 3-1 in the Champions League final.

What a career this majestic little midfielder has had! Eight La Liga titles, three Copa del Rey victories, six Supercopa de España cups, four Champions League successes, and the Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup twice a piece. Internationally, Xavi has won two European Championships and one World Cup, in addition to numerous personal accolades, including La Liga Midfielder of the Year for three successive years, as well as being nominated in the FIFA World XI six times. He has also been nominated for the Ballon d’Or five times, coming third on three occasions.

What Xavi has achieved is outstanding. Numerous trophies and multiple accolades has seen the midfielder become one of the world’s greatest players of all time. He holds the record Barcelona appearances on 767, and has won more trophies (28) than any other Spanish player. The midfielder retired from Spanish football to play in Qatar where he is currently playing for Al Sadd, but his reputation as a Barcelona and Spanish player will be what he will be remembered for.

Xavi will go ddown in history not only as one of the most successful players of all time, but also as one of the most talented players to ever grace a football field. His vision; technique and passing became the finger print of his success as a holding midfielder/ play-maker, and is widely regarded as the greatest passer of the ball of all time. His incredible chemistry with fellow Spanish midfield maestro – Andres Iniesta – helped get the best out of a long list of strikers at the Camp Nou: Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto’o, Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez but to name a few. He is often hailed by Pep Guardiola as the perfect midfielder, and given the career he has had, few can dispute that.

Xavi was – and continues – to be a legend of the game, and without doubt deserves a place on this list.

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Thank you for reading this article: I hope it has been an informative and enjoyable read, and any comments would be greatly appreciated.

@TheSportLowdown  @LWOSdale89

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About Dale Ventham

Dale Ventham is an editor at The Sports Lowdown. He writes on the lower leagues of English football and Speedway in particular.

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