Xavi: My biggest dream is to retire at Barcelona
In the second part of a two-part interview with FIFA.com, Barcelona midfielder, Xavi Hernandez, who discussed life with the Spanish national team in the first part, shifted gears and gave a look into life at one of the biggest clubs in the world.
Xavi first began by discussing the criticisms the team has received this season, despite their 20-game unbeaten run and how life after former manager, Pep Guardiola has involuntarily set the standard very high for incoming managers such as current coach, Tata Martino.
“Over and above Guardiola, who did an excellent job as coach – while we also did excellently in terms of results and the football we played, the issue is more down to the legacy we left. We scaled the heights in pretty much every way: footballistically, tactically, technically and physically. The standard of play was excellent and, since then, you have to expect comparisons to be made. And often, as the saying goes, ‘comparisons are odious’. So, in that sense we’re left open to criticism, as we know how difficult life can be within Can Barça, but Tata has both experience and character. The players really respect him and he’s proving he’s got what it takes to coach Barcelona. And not just results-wise: the team’s play is also improving. We’re doing well and are in good form.
“Can Bayern reach the heights of Barcelona? Well, that’s where it comes down to other teams to try and stop them. One of them being Barcelona, for example, right? I think that we’re still capable of big things in La Liga and in Europe, though clearly Bayern are very strong. Last year they won practically everything and this year they’re still on course [to do so again]. They have to be considered among the real favourites to win the Champions League again.”
Xavi went on to clarify that despite all the big names he’s played with, such as Ronaldinho, Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Iniesta and Neymar, Leo Messi is head and shoulders above the rest.
“When it comes to striking up an understanding and enjoying your football, you always want to play alongside the very best, right? But in my view, Messi is the greatest player of all time. He’s the best there is.”
Barcelona’s second captain further cleared up rumours on his future and insists that his dream is to retire at Barcelona and he hopes that he will achieve that final dream of his footballing career.
“(Laughs) Yes, of course [I'll clear things up]! What I said was more about how demanding it is [at Barça], rather than not wanting to [retire in the club’s colours]. On the contrary, I’d love to hang up my boots at Barcelona and stay involved with the club, which I think is the best in the world, for many years. I’ve felt that way since I was a boy and still feel the same today. I’d like to still be at Barcelona when I retire, but I know how demanding it is. That’s why I said it’s not my decision: to retire here I’ll have to keep performing at the highest level. Let’s hope I can do it, it’s my biggest dream.”
Xavi went on to admit that he takes the usually hyper-critical Spanish media with a grain of salt stating,”I understand what journalism is about and I get that there’s a need to generate controversy. With everything that surrounds the game, I know how all this works,” before speaking about the press grouping he and teammate Andres Iniesta as essentially one person.
“We are often referred to in the same sentence and that’s good, right? Years ago there were people that said we couldn’t play together. So, it’s more than welcome as praise always goes down well, particularly when you look at what we’ve been through. We didn’t used to win anything and now we’re being successful at both team and individual level, enjoying a wonderful era that I hope will last a few years longer.”
The ‘perfect midfielder’ stressed that despite the calm exterior, he is very restless but manages to keep everything in perspective.
“Me? Laid back? No, I’m quite restless. I wouldn’t say nervous, but when it comes to football I’ve got a curious mind. I like to analyse the game, like we’ve talked about before. I really like watching football and dissecting the play, taking in a bit of everything.
“Nothing [gets on my nerves]! I’m happy and I feel very privileged. I feel good, I’m happy and I’m where I want to be. I’ve earned individual recognition and had success as part of a team too. It’s fantastic and I hope it continues! I’d like it to last many more years and be able to keep enjoying it.”
Xavi concluded by hoping that his body will match his ambitions, as he still “genuinely enjoys” playing with both Barcelona and Spain and wants it to continue as long as possible.
“I think [I can keep playing for many years], though we’ll have to see how my legs hold up and the games go. But I’m really excited about competing for La Liga, the Champions League, the World Cup… I’m genuinely enjoying myself, both with Barcelona and the national team. Playing football is what I’m passionate about, what I enjoy doing most. All I can do is put in the effort, keep looking at myself and listening to my body, and see how long I can keep going.”