FC Barcelona 2011/12 Season in Review: Xavi

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 15: Xavi Hernandez of FC Barcelona celebrates scoring his sides opening goal during the la Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real Betis Balompie at the Camp Nou stadium on January 15, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

Report: Xavi does his talking on the pitch, though he has been talking to reporters more this season, and he does it loudly. He is such a magnificent player, a once in a generation (life time?) player in fact. His vision in second to none and his passing is smooth as silk. Xavi is what makes Barcelona, and Spain for that matter, work and without him both teams would be just a fraction of what they are now.

Let it be a simple backpass or a 30-yard through ball the odds are high Xavi's pass will find his intended teammate. Xavi attempted nearly 3000 passes in La Liga alone, more than any other player in the league, and had a pass success higher than everybody else in the league except Barcelona's own Thiago (by a measly 0.3% despite attempting nearly 1000 passes more). Add to that the Champions League, the Copa del Rey and the three other (club) competitions Xavi appeared in and you reach the 5000 pass mark - all that while playing with a damaged Achilles tendon.

That damage forced Pep Guardiola to substitute Xavi early from (mainly) "out-of-reach" games to limit his minutes, he played nearly 300 minutes less than in the previous season, and keep him fresh for more important games. This proved fruitful as Xavi completed the season without any major injuries.

Xavi has clearly been the fulcrum of Barça for about a decade now but this season that was even more evident. Not only did he assist on 16 goals, which is actually less than in past seasons, but he also added 14 goals, more than he ever did in his career. Xavi's previous career high was 10.

Xavi built on that tremendous club season with a terrific EURO 2012 campaign. He finished the tournament with the highest passing percentage of all players that attempted more than 200 passes (Xavi attempted 595 - tops among all players). His consistency and (almost) Man of the Match performance in the Final won him a place in the Team of the Tournament.

Inder Methil's View: The Maestro is getting better with age. The stats say it all really: 51 appearances, 14 goals, 16 assists and a pass success rate of 93.2% (average in all competitions). If that doesn't say it all then how about 2 assists in the Euro Finals against Italy?

The man is a football genius (and best suited for the praise cause in his case it is literal). The perfect football brain, without which, Barcelona simply cannot play the style that they are now famous for. I dare say, even a Barcelona without Lionel Messi could function (minus a lot of trophies and about 70 odd goals a season). Admittedly, they wouldn't be good but they could function. It would be possible for Barça to play a similar attacking style with the diminutive Argentine, but close to impossible to do that with Xavi Hernandez.

After years of being compared to Pep Guardiola, it is ironic that Xavi is also going to be the next big coach that Barcelona can develop. He has the brains, the work rate, the creativity and most of all, the ability to keep possession like no player ever has before, in the history of the game. The Catalan midfielder is without a doubt the greatest midfielder of his generation (and I would argue, ever). Despite injuries this season, Xavi has been phenomenal almost every single time he has played.

Moment of the Season: When one man scores this many goals and adds so many assists it's hard to decide which one of them should be given the nod in this category (just remembered how hard this will be when it's time to review Lionel Messi). In the end it came down to two goals for me; the game winner against Real Madrid and the game winner against Granada. Most of you probably still remember the goal Xavi scored at the Santiago Bernabeu - the deflection off Marcelo - while the other didn't get enough publicity. I did in the end opt for the latter because the El Clasico goal just had so much luck involved it would not be fair that it would win over a magnificent strike like this:

Granada 0-1 Barcelona - Liga BBVA 2011/12 (GOLES) All Goals (via LigasMundiales)

Stats:

Appearances 51
Games started 45
Started on the bench 14
Substitute in 6
Substitute out 19
Minutes played 3874
Goals scored 14
Assists 16
Shots 68
Shots on goal 25
Fouls committed 11
Fouls suffered 41
Yellow cards 5
Red cards 0

Record with Xavi in the starting lineup: 31-11-3

2012/13 Outlook: This past season has showed Xavi needs more rest than he did in previous years and next year we should see more of the same. Xavi has been struggling with injures lately and one way to prevent/limit them is to give the player more time to recover. Xavi should still end the season with approximately 50 appearances but he will often get substituted off the pitch when there will be no doubt about the winner. Xavi will also continue to be the Maestro of the team and will make sure Barça's passing will be as smooth as ever.

Next Up: Andres Iniesta

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