On January 25, 1980, Xavier Hernández i Creus was born in Terrassa, Catalunya, a city of just over two hundred thousand. He joined the Barcelona youth ranks at the age of 11, in 1991, and made his debut with the first team on August 18, 1998. He has since appeared in over 500 competitive matches for Barcelona in all competitions–putting him second on the all-time appearances list at Barça behind Migueli— and has won 12 trophies with the squad. He is also the vice captain behind Carles Puyol.
The thing is, though, he’s more than a simple midfielder. He is a playmaker extraordinaire, whose vision and range of passing is surpassed only by his understanding of physical space. I am often given to excess romanticism about the game we all love and certain players in particular, so I can understand if some of you out in Internetlandia don’t exactly take me at my word on this, but there is just something emotional about watching Xavi play when he is at his peak. It is, to blaspheme a tiny bit, akin to watching Zidane at his glorious best, like watching a metronome that forcibly keeps you ticking at the right pace, even in your living room a thousand miles away.
It is art to watch him. It is a boy on a playground, mesmerized by the ball, the ball mesmerized by him. It is a lull in an opera that reminds you what you’re really supposed to feel before the next crescendo guides your mind to more impassioned thoughts. It is the simple act of a child smiling: innocent, joyful.
Always, though, I return to thinking about space. The ball arrives, two bodies meet, one turns slightly to the side and there is suddenly a yard in between the two men. It is simple, yet impossible. I rewound Xavi’s simple trap and turn move a thousand times, trying to understand how he knows. Knows when to turn. Knows how to turn his body so that he is no longer near anyone else, so that he is alone in the field, like the child we saw on the playground, dribbling, juking fake opponents, winning trophies, and acting like it’s no big deal. That child is real and he wears the blaugrana 6.