January Break Report: Xavi

Manuel Queimadelos Alonso

The break continues, so we take a look at Xavi's performance for Barcelona this season. The midfielder played the Catalonia-Nigeria match so he's beginning to get into shape for El Derbi Barceloni this weekend. How do you rate him?

If FC Barcelona is an orchestra playing a complex symphony, Xavi Hernandez is the conductor. Pepe Reina calls Xavi "the baton of Spain" because he directs both the national team and his club side. Soon to be 33, there are worries about his ability to maintain himself at the top, but at the moment, is there any question he's one of the world's greatest?

Barcelona is the world's best passing team, and Xavi is Barca's best passer. Not particularly fast, tall, or strong, Xavi makes up for it with brilliant technique, great vision, and a strong footballing mind. He is once again the man who plays the most passes each game and the most accurate player among all the footballers in the big four European leagues.

It's true some of his passes are safe and most are short, but the amount of people who fail to appreciate him is falling as his brilliance is on display yet again. With smart and accurate passes, Xavi drives the team forward into scoring positions while not letting the other team attack. Let's not forget, also, that Xavi leads the team in accurate long balls per game by a good margin and that his six assists put him fifth on the team in the department.

Defensively, Xavi assists Sergio Busquets in breaking up attacks by intercepting the ball through good positioning. But his main way of helping the team keep a clean sheet is in keeping possession. That is his genius - even as he constructs attacking moves, he defends.

On offense, Xavi registered a career-best 14 goals last season and he's given Barca a bit of scoring punch this season, too. With five goals, Xavi is behind only Lionel Messi, David Villa and Adriano Correia in the scoring charts. He also is second on the team in key passes, behind Andres Iniesta.

Despite not making the final three man shortlist for the Ballon D'Or, The Guardian's football writers recently named Xavi the third-best player in the world after Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. In his current form, even at his advanced age, there are simply not many players that can match Xavi's influence.

Lowest point:

Xavi is known for his amazing control, but he displayed none of it when attempting to block a bouncing pass that Tony Watt got on the end of in Barcelona's loss to Celtic in the Champions League.

Xavi leapt at the ball but the bounce was powerful and it sneaked towards Watt, who waltzed towards goal unchallenged. His strike gave Celtic a 2-0 lead which Messi could only pull back to 2-1.

Highest point:

With Granada's Toño putting in a breathtaking goalkeeping display worthy of Javi Varas, Barcelona fans felt the then-eight point lead over Real Madrid beginning to slip. The man in the pink shirt kept everything out for 86 minutes, and it seemed like another "goalkeeper having the game of his life against Barca" story.

But then came Xavi's missile.

Xavi stuck out his left foot to trap the ball, and it bounced invitingly. He opened his body up and smashed it past Toño, into the crossbar, and down into the goal. Lionel Messi would provoke an own goal a few minutes later to make it 2-0, but without Xavi's rocket of a strike, Barca would have likely dropped points.

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