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Futuristic Xavi is La Roja’s inspiration

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The story goes that during David Beckham sojourn at Real Madrid, he was surprised to see Zinedine Zidane take time out after every training session to work on his ball control.
Zidane’s method was simple, even somewhat agricultural. The Frenchman apparently shot the ball up in the air as far as he could and then practiced receiving it, as close to his body as possible. Amazingly straightforward.

And the lesson from this small anecdote is just that.

The greatest players in the world are the ones who can do the simple things the best.

So, step forward Xavi Hernandez. The Spanish midfielder has been the

The master of tikki-taka

fulcrum of the La Roja squad who have ambled (there really is no other word for it), their way into the World Cup final.

Spain play a mesmerizing brand of football, idiosyncratic in the maximum, elaborate but at the same time controlling, and believe it or not defensive. One journalist described them as attractively defensive. It is not far off the mark. Spain asphyxiates their opponents. Spain devour their opponents, slowly, steadily, like a boa constrictor eating a rabbit. They don’t attack, but probe, press, and pass. Pass you to figurative death. And Xavi is usually the mastermind of this murder.
Forever plotting behind the scenes, but as imperative and essential as your heartbeat.
Just to give you a measure of Xavi’s anti-hero; when the Barcelona midfielder was included in the top five at the Fifa World Player award ceremony in January 2009, alongside Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Fernando Torres, the British Daily Mail’s headline famously ran: “The best players of the world (and Xavi).

Xavi is a fantastic player, albeit one who lacks the flash of any of his aforementioned glorified compatriots. His genius is not that evident; his innovative moves lack the in-your-face glory of a Messi slalom, or a Ronaldo free-kick, or a Kaka burst at pace.

His genius is in doing the simple things, right, time and time again. Xavi’s genius lies in his passing. “I am basically a passer,” was Xavi’s modest self-assesment. And so he is. He belongs to Barcelona after all. “Receive, pass, offer,” is the simple message, the obsession, a badge of identity that runs right through the club, driven into players from the moment they join. Xavi joined in 1991 and no one represents that obsession better than him.

And it’s not just his passing. It is his vision, his ability to read the game better than his opponents that sets himself apart.

Teammate Dani Alves once famously said, “Xavi plays in the future.” What he meant was that Xavi’s understanding was such that he often knew what the player should do before the other player did himself. His pass then set his teammate up for that exact move.
If Spain are to lift the World Cup on Sunday, much of the credit will go to the likes of Andres Iniesta and David Villa. Many will overlook the contribution of the man they call the metronome.
But the ones who matter will know.
Spanish football expert Sid Lowe wrote an engaging commentary a few months back. He concluded by stating that while Messi may be the best player in the world, without Xavi, he might not be.
Similarly, Spain may be the best team in the world, but without Xavi they would definitely not be.

Written by quazi zulquarnain

July 9, 2010 at 1:23 pm