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Goodbye Xavi: The essence of Barcelona moves on

The time has come. As most expected, Xavi has decided to leave Barcelona after 24 years at the club and 17 as a first team player

Goodbye Xavi: The essence of Barcelona moves on
Goodbye Xavi: The essence of Barcelona moves on

The time has come. As most expected, Xavi has decided to leave Barcelona after 24 years at the club and 17 as a first team player

Xavi Camp Nou
© Getty Images #180701848

The time has come. As most expected, Xavi has decided to leave Barcelona after 24 years at the club and 17 as a first team player. By the time the game against Deportivo La Coruna is over on Saturday, the Catalan maestro would have made a club record 764 appearances — a historical moment he should celebrate in style, then look back with pride in years to come.

Although Cules around the world are obviously devastated to hear that the most emblematic midfielder in their club’s history has chosen to move on, they will be forever grateful for his many years of service and the astonishing 23 titles his performances have brought to the Camp Nou museum — which would increase to 25 if Luis Enrique’s men can win the Champions League and Copa del Rey finals coming up in the next fortnight.

Xavi’s departure signifies the end of an era for Barcelona. His mesmerising pass and move approach, refined after several years perfecting his trade at the celebrated La Masia academy, will always be remembered as the culmination of the idea that Johan Cruyff brought to the club in the late 1980s.

The Terrassa-born maestro was never the tallest, strongest or fastest of midfielders, but that certainly did not stop him from becoming the mastermind of the most dominant team in modern football. His staggering vision and computer-like footballing brain enabled him to distribute the ball all over the pitch with clarity and purpose, making him an indispensable player for virtually every manager that has had the privilege to coach him.

In Xavi’s footballing universe, the ball bolts across the pitch considerably faster than any of the players. Constant possession and purposeful distribution keeps rivals moving, generating spaces as a result. Dribbling does have its place, but only if a advantages would be generated as a result or strictly necessary. Patience. Belief. Success.

Had Xavi not been convinced by former teammate Luis Enrique to stay as soon as he took charge of the Catalan giants, the No.6 would have already left his childhood club last summer — in favour of incredibly ludicrous offers from the Middle East which, considering his age, were pretty much irresistible from an economical point of view.

Xavi has played a crucial role not only in helping new signings but also in supporting his manager build a relationship with key heavyweights.

Judging by the performances the Catalan maestro has delivered since, that would have been a terrible loss for a Barcelona squad in an alarming need of leadership. If Barcelona are only a couple of finals away from becoming the first ever club to win the Liga, Champions League and Copa del Rey treble twice, it is also thanks to Xavi’s influence both on and off the pitch.

Inevitably, the 35 year old midfielder has enjoyed less playing time as years have gone by, dropping to just 20 starts in the current season. However, the outstanding playmaker has performed at a very competitive level whenever needed, proving that modern football can not only be dominated by ultra-physical youngsters but also by veterans capable of reading the tempo of the game quicker than those with far less experience and knowledge.

Perhaps even more importantly, Xavi has played a crucial role not only in helping new signings adapt to the Barca system but also in supporting his manager build an effective working relationship with key heavyweights within his dressing room. Would Barcelona have turned their season around in such a spectacular manner if Xavi hadn’t intervened in the widely-documented dispute between Lionel Messi and Luis Enrique at the Anoeta stadium? Doubtful.

Although it truly hurts my heart to even write this, Xavi will defend the Blaugrana colours at the Camp Nou for the last time on Saturday. Supporters better be ready to give the Catalan maestro the final goodbye he deserves so he can add yet another emotional moment to his already endless list of cherished memories.

Similarly to his dearest friend Carles Puyol, Cules must accept the gap left by the departure of Barcelona’s eternal No. 6 will never be fully refilled.

Similarly to his dearest friend Carles Puyol, Cules must accept the gap left by the departure of Barcelona’s eternal No. 6 will never be fully refilled, unfortunately. Other midfielders will definitely occupy Xavi's position on the pitch but expecting any newcomers to fill his boots would be both unrealistic and counterproductive.

Encouragingly, the word in the streets of the Catalan capital is that Xavi has already expressed an initial interest on pursuing a coaching career once his exotic adventure in Qatar comes to an end. Becoming a manager is definitely the natural step for such a privileged football mind to take and, when that happens, the doors of the Camp Nou will be wide open for a glorious return.

Fins aviat, Xavi — T’esperem!