Happy Birthday, Xavi!

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.

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.

36 Comments

  1. Tajh
    January 25, 2010

    Happy Birthday, Xavi!!! heres more to come……….
    BTW did anyone else notice that Keita is suspend for the Gijon match…

  2. Kxevin
    January 25, 2010

    Sorry for the outage, everyone. Technical issues unrelated to us. Thanks for sticking with us.

    • andrew M
      January 26, 2010

      huh i thought it was my computer.

  3. inNYC
    January 25, 2010

    Xavi is THE BEST. A good solid Aquarius like myself, I also note. Happy Birthday!

    • andrew M
      January 26, 2010

      happy birthday to you too then!

  4. BA
    January 25, 2010

    Xavi will go down as one of the best midfielders to ever play the game. it’s really his conceptualization of space that makes him so good; he knows how to create space from nothing and seemingly can find it with his eyes closed on the pitch. those defense-splitting passes and his unparalleled ability (in the modern game anyway) to maintain possession all stems from his vision of space on the field, and it’s truly brilliant to watch.

    this sense is like opera: if you don’t GET IT, you can be taught to like it and what to look for, but it’ll never be part of your soul (yeah i paraphrased from Pretty Woman to describe football… what of it!?). Xavi more than any player i’ve seen still playing (besides, perhaps, his mate Don Andres but with some important distinctions) GETS IT. we should be very thankful he’s at the heart of our team and hope he continues for many seasons.

    • Keano
      January 25, 2010

      When Xavi goes the Spanish national team is screwed. Despite what goal and delusional Arsenal fans say, fabergas has a long way to go before he can orchestrate like xavi. Hes a fine player dont get me wrong but the English press has made him into a god. The reason for this is that the english teams can’t produce such midfielders. Arteta and fabergas are great players but imagine if xavi played in the premiership, papers would jizz themselves.

      • January 26, 2010

        they did jizz themselves when they saw him in Euro 2008.

        and completely agree re:fabregas. he’s good,can be great,but still not as good as either xavi or iniesta – or perhaps even david silva.

      • Alexinho
        January 26, 2010

        But Fabregas is younger. Xavi wasn’t able to “orchestrate” the way he does today at 22. Who was better at 22: Xavi or Fabregas?

        If Fabregas came over this summer, he might have to ride the bench for awhile, which is why he won’t come over this summer. But Xavi, now having passed the big 3-0, will need a replacement training in the wings. Can Thiago be that guy–is that what the management is planning? If it is, we’ll see. But I don’t think there’s a better man out there for the job than Fabregas, and damned if the likes of Txiki Beguiristain don’t know it.

  5. Cruyff's Coiffure
    January 25, 2010

    Most under-rated part of his game to me is his ability to make a defender’s physicality superfluous. No matter how aggressive you are or how much strength you use to try to get the ball off of him, it won’t matter: he’ll just shift his body in the other direction and make the open pass.

  6. Blow-Granite
    January 26, 2010

    Happy Birthday Xavi. I agree Xavi is a great player. And no, the midfielder art is not dying, but evolving.

    I think you guys are making too much of Xavi. The weight shifts and body direction changes are typical of midfielders. All midfielders have to look for space and make a pass. If you look at any midfielder who has been playing part of a team for a long time they understand the system and then become very good. Look at all the great midfielders -> Gerrard, Lampard, Fabregas, Pirlo, Zidane… Xavi. These players are good because they have been part of the system and the team for a long time, and so know how and whom to look for.

    • January 26, 2010

      “Look at all the great midfielders ->Gerrard, Lampard, Fabregas, Pirlo, Zidane… Xavi”

      There is something… wrong… about this queue. It just… doesn’t look …like…You know…If you don’t know…Neither do I….Nevermind…

  7. Vj
    January 26, 2010

    My fav Xavi goals:

    5.Against Osasuna, La Liga 2007-08: I literally jumped out of my seat and did two victory laps after this goal.. Sigh, It was the worst of times..

    4.Against Russia, Euro 08 Semi: Iniesta + Xavi = *Drools*

    3.At Osasuna, La Liga 2008-09: Sparked off a brilliant comeback..

    2.Against Celtic, UCL Round of 16 2007-08: Xavi feels that this is the best goal he ever scored..

    1.Against Real Madrid(away), La Liga 2003-04: Words fail to describe the goal..

    • ooga aga
      January 26, 2010

      thanks for posting that cool list so i could kill some time…

      • ooga aga
        January 26, 2010

        in #4, look at iniesta’s beautiful locks…

  8. Bill
    January 26, 2010

    Happy bday Xavi!

    But…if its Xavi’s b-day, isn’t it Iniesta’s Bday too? Arent those two twins? 🙂

  9. poipoi
    January 26, 2010

    One of the greatest players ever in FCB history, with more than ten years in the 1st team. The best player ever if you look at “games played badly” he must have had like 4 or 5 in his life 😉 AND he will beat Migueli soon!!!

    How long can the mate play? I say 40 or more, just as long as he wants to! 😀 He now is like a mature jogger just passing and turning and hardly ever sprinting or seeking contact. Please Xavi stay with us as long as you can. When you retire people won’t understand how great you are just for the videos and highlights.

  10. andrew M
    January 26, 2010

    has anybody else noticed that what sets xavi apart from other midfielders is that before he gets the ball, he looks up and surveys the pitch almost taking a mental photograph of where everybody is, then he receives the ball.

    other players get the ball then look around. this is what makes him appear psychic!

    • Kxevin
      January 26, 2010

      You could really see that quality in the moment that I cited in the Valladolid match review. It speaks to not only his abilities as a team player, but his confidence that controlling the ball is one thing that he doesn’t have to worry about.

      • Hector
        January 26, 2010

        Exactly. Technically, he is perfect. Just perfect. That allows him to focus on angles, runs, points of attack, shifts, and overlaps. Its like the great American football (NFL) quarterbacks. Only when their throwing motion and technique is so perfect that it becomes muscle memory can they focus on reading defenses, changing calls, and making hot reads. This gives them a faster reaction time than the other QB’s who have to in some way consciously concern themselves about their technique.

        Xavi is like that. His technique has become muscle memory to the point that he does not even think about it and instead focuses on reading the game leading to much faster reaction time. It takes a hell of a lot of work and practice to get to that point. Some have already commented on how he takes quick snap shots of the field before receiving the ball, his head pivoting from side to side. The guy I consciously remember seeing doing that for the first time was, ironically, Pep Guardiola 😀 (not saying he was the only one but the first guy I remember noticing him doing it). Another thing that just amazes me is how he constantly looks off defenders, moving them with his eyes and putting them out of position before making the pass that he imagined all along. Again with the NFL analogy, its like a quarterback moving a safety in zone coverage with his eyes. Neutralizing defenders with something as subtle as simply moving his head and eyes.

  11. Random Juve Fan
    January 26, 2010

    God I wish Juventus had a midfielder like him instead of *shudders* Melo

  12. Hector
    January 26, 2010

    Thong Boy just got a two game suspension!

    The EE predictably will appeal. Supposedly RM argued against the suspension by showing a video of Messi’s attempt to break loose from Valiente’s rugby tackle during the Sevilla game. Of course, Thong Boy was also rugby tackled for over five seconds when his elbow was attacked by the Malaga player’s jaw.

    It’s a conspiracy, I tell you! Villarato!

    In fairness, I would have screamed bloody murder for a two game suspension to a Barca player for an offense such as this. Maybe they are taking into consideration that this is his second straight red in the season and its an accumulation thing. I don’t know. All I know is that the Madrid press is about to go postal.

    *grabs the popcorn*

    • Kxevin
      January 26, 2010

      But he broke his nose. I think that’s what led to the two-match suspension. That, and the next-to-zero amount of contrition shown by TB.

      • January 26, 2010

        Good points, Kevin. So…

        – Repeat offender
        – No contrition at all
        – Opposing player out for three weeks as a direct result

        Honestly, as a stand alone offense, I would not have given two games. Straight red? Yeah. One game suspension? Yeah. I don’t know what the committee takes into consideration for decisions like these. I’m guessing some if not all the points above must have been taken into account then. I’m still grabbing my popcorn though 😀 . Can’t wait for the Madrid press editorials.

      • January 26, 2010

        Apparently it was one game for a straight red card and another game for it being a “repeat offense” (his second straight red of the season).

  13. yogi
    January 26, 2010

    So Madrid will be without TB and Higuain in next match. I feel happy.

    I miss us playing in mid week though. It feels as if it is ages between Barca matches.

    • Kxevin
      January 26, 2010

      I bet that the players don’t. 😀

  14. Alexinho
    January 26, 2010

    “Given to excess romanticism” are we, eh?

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