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Luis Enrique Made a Good Call: Xavi is Still a Key Player For FC Barcelona

It's easy to lose yourself in the fact that Xavi has diminished, but the maestro is far from finished.

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Xavi is leaving FC Barcelona, too early for many Cules. But in truth, his departure is coming a year late from his point of view. His bags were packed in the summer and it was only after a strong plea from coach Luis Enrique that the midfield maestro decided to stay after all.

The Catalan couldn't bear the thought of becoming irrelevant at his hometown club. But Lucho allayed his fearsm promising Xavi that if he showed he was up for it, he'd get picked.

It's not hard to see why Xavi was skeptical. His stock had dropped to an almost all-time low before the season started.

Many Barcelona fans said Xavi was done. Others blamed him for Spain's World Cup fiasco in Brazil. In my mind, Xavi was unfairly blamed for La Roja's problems, which were much deeper. A column on ESPN called him one of the worst players of the World Cup and said "he looked sadly bereft against both the Dutch and Chile." Mind you, Xavi didn't even play against Chile.

Some questioned why Lucho even wanted the crumbling old man to stick around. Even today, a lot of the narrative about Xavi's departure is focused on his decline. There's no denying that Xavi can't run a game like in his prime, but he is still a key player - possibly the team's most important sub.

Across all competitions, Xavi has put in 39 appearances - more than surefire starters like Javier Mascherano or Jordi Alba, for example. True, many have been off the bench, but not most of them. He has started more than his fair share of matches, and usually gave a good account of himself. In the league, Xavi has made 8 assists - third on the team after Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

The Catalan maestro has played basically every important game this season, even starting a few. He can't cover as much ground as he used to, but when given enough breaks between matches, he can hold his own. And the deft touches, the ball circulation, the shooting - it's all still there.

Barcelona - and Xavi - are on the cusp of achieving a historic second treble. But Xavi doesn't belong in a museum; you can be sure Xavi's got a role to play in deciding if the titles are coming.

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