Once again — after Éric Abidal, Victor Valdés and Carles Puyol — another Barcelona legend leaves.
On May 21, Xavi Hernández announced he will leaving the club at the end of the season. Xavi will head to Qatar to play for club Al Sadd. The deal is reportedly for two years and it will give Xavi opportunities in coaching as well.
It was inevitable that Xavi, at age 35, would leave El Blaugrana either to go play elsewhere or retire. While some are a bit disappointed that Xavi will not retire as a Barcelona player, he has earned the right to do what makes him happy, and that is to continue playing football.
There goes the greatest midfielder of all time.... #6raciesXavi pic.twitter.com/psLAmAx4UB— Xoel Càrdenas (@XoelCardenas) May 23, 2015
Xavi is more than just arguably the best midfielder in Barça history and the best midfielder our generation, he's arguably the most intelligent and best midfielder in the history of the game. Xavi has influenced some of today's best mids and in a few years, we'll see even more midfielders in our game stating that Xavi was their influence — some of which already say this.
I have said it before, but I'll remind you: While Lionel Messi is the greatest player I've ever seen play, Xavi is my favorite player to watch, personally. He truly sees things on the pitch no one else can. The great Ray Hudson call Xavi "Chameleon Eyes." Xavi is like a football chess master: studying the opponent's movement and strategy, then using his brains and talent to outsmart the opponent and reach checkmate.
1998 - 2015 pic.twitter.com/PnJ86ZVnUt— FCBarcelona 2.0 (@MunirFCB) May 23, 2015
Xavi's hero was Pep Guardiola. From 1998-2001, Pep mentored Xavi at Barcelona, knowing the future of Barça's midfield dominance depended on the growth of the kid from Terrassa. In the 1999-2000 season, Xavi replaced Pep in the midfield when Guardiola was out with an injury.
Xavi saw times change from Louis Van Gaal to the three years of chaos that saw four managers at the helm —i ncluding a brief return of Van Gaal — and the club fall down thanks to the club's board.
In 2003, Xavi welcomed Frank Rijkaard as manager, and the Rijkaard/Ronaldinho era of 2003-08 began. While the star of the team was Dinho, it was Xavi and Puyol whom were the leaders. Xavi was out for most of the 2005-06 season with a knee injury, but was able to return late in the season, as Barcelona won La Liga and the UEFA Champions League title. Xavi continued to grow as a player under Rijkaard. But after 2007-08, a change was coming. It would be the change that further enhanced Xavi's greatness as well as FC Barcelona.
La reacción de Xavi al ver el mosaico. te amooo!! pic.twitter.com/3CXukYWW04— #6raciesXavi (@Josecarrasco_) May 23, 2015
2008-09 saw Xavi's hero, Pep Guardiola, become manager and the Golden Era of FC Barcelona began. Guardiola and the late Tito Vilanova created the tiki-taka, and the man who was the most fundamental part of said tiki-taka was Xavi. While Lionel Messi was the star of the Golden Era, the style of play was meant to be perfected by Xavi — and boy, did he perfect it. Fourteen titles in four seasons, including two Champions League titles.
See you as a coach pic.twitter.com/iWJb95FjoW— khawla (@K_Blaugrana) May 23, 2015
After Pep's departure, Xavi remained a key figure. But as it does to all of us, age catches up and Xavi's minutes began to fade a bit. It seemed like 2013-14 would be Xavi's last season at Barcelona. But thankfully, Luis Enrique spoke to Xavi and convinced him to stay, despite knowing he would not be part of the regular starting XI. In 2014-15, Xavi was huge in Barça title run and was crucial in many Liga, Copa and Champions League matches. Xavi didn't fade out as others do late in their careers. Xavi is like a fine wine — a champion-winning wine.
"El Maestro" played in 505 games in La Liga: 322 wins, 107 draws, 76 losses. Xavi scored 58 goals, racked up 116 assists and won 8 Liga Trophies. Xavi won two Copa del Reys, three UEFA Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups, two FIFA Club World Cups, and six Spanish Super Cups. And he has the potential to win one more Copa and Champions.
Xavi was the main piece in Spain's 2008-12 run of international dominance. Xavi was the midfielding general in La Furia Roja's army, leading to two European titles and the 2010 FIFA World Cup. It's no surprise that the best Spanish national team came when the best Barcelona team was around, and Xavi was the man in the middle of both offenses.
#6raciesXavi pic.twitter.com/97NZdtXZi8— Xoel Càrdenas (@XoelCardenas) May 23, 2015
On Saturday, Xavi said goodbye (for now) to Barcelona in Liga action. The Camp Nou crowd stood up and applauded the man that has been there for the lows and so many highs. It was fitting that Andrés Iniesta was the man that replaced Xavi in the match. Both men have been staples of this team, and Iniesta once said when he was part of Barcelona B, he wanted to be like Xavi. Legends.
HISTÒRIC. Xavi es converteix en el futbolista català amb més partits a Primera Divisió amb 505. Supera Soler (504). pic.twitter.com/dbophXVVFJ— LaTdP (@LaTdP) May 23, 2015
Xavi levanta el trofeo de Liga pic.twitter.com/RTZ8AU5F7K— FCB (@Emenderk) May 23, 2015
La Liga is Barcelona's in 2014-15, and Xavi lifted his last Liga trophy. Xavi couldn't hold back the tears, as Barcelona paid tribute to him. Xavi, in tears, said:
"Many thanks for everything. You've made me the proudest man in the world, today and in those 17 seasons. This is the best club in the world, no matter what they say."
Xavi also stated, "I tried to control my emotions, but in the end it wasn't possible. I'll miss everything about Barça."
We'll miss everything about you, Xavi.
Xavi in tears: "Many thanks for everything." pic.twitter.com/sihhcRjDj8— Leo Messi (@messi10stats) May 23, 2015
Gracias Maestro pic.twitter.com/h8i6pUdXuu— FCB (@Emenderk) May 23, 2015
Xavi will return to the Camp Nou for the Copa del Rey Final. Hopefully, we'll see Xavi lift up another trophy. Lastly, we all hope to see Xavi lift the biggest trophy in Europe on June 6 in Berlin.
Like all Culés, I'm going to miss Xavi. I am sad, but I'm comforted that Xavi went out a winner and as an important player on a championship team. There are too many football legends that go out either as a benchwarmer or being booed off the pitch. Xavi got the red carpet treatment he earned and deserved. My favorite memory of Xavi will be his goal against Real Madrid in Barcelona's 5-0 destruction of José Mourinho's team back in the 2010-11 season. To see Xavi grab the kit and hold up the crest as he celebrated was spectacular. Add to this is wild celebration when the fifth goal came, and for me, it was Xavi Hernández's ecstasy which made the night even more special.
#6raciesXavi pic.twitter.com/7FHscvNmRP— Xoel Càrdenas (@XoelCardenas) May 23, 2015
Like Guardiola before him, I know Xavi will one day return to Barcelona. I do believe we will see him manage a Barcelona team, perhaps managing the B team a la Pep.
Continuarà... pic.twitter.com/z2TOy5pBy9— Jordi Finestres#SíSí (@jordifinestres) May 23, 2015
We are saying goodbye to Xavi, but only just for now. He will return to his home when the moment is right.
Barcelona Fans pay tribute to Xavi. Legend pic.twitter.com/UcvaI2CNq8— 8 Fact Football (@8Fact_Footballl) May 23, 2015
FC Barcelona is Més Que Un Club.
Xavi, you are Més Que Un Jugador.
Gràcies for so many memories.
Gràcies for staying strong in times when it seemed like Barcelona was going downhill.
Gràcies for mentoring Andrés Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Thiago Alcántara, Sergi Roberto and others along the way.
Gràcies for being the co-leader of this club alongside Carles Puyol.
Gràcias for mastering the tiki-taka and perfecting a football revolution.
Gràcias for being an elegant winner, and keeping your elegance whenever you faced defeat.
Gràcias for always reminding everyone that the club is bigger than any player.
Gràcies for being the best midfielder of all time.
Finally, gràcies for everything. There will never be enough words to describe what you've meant to this club. Good luck, God bless, and come back home soon. You've written you're name in FC Barcelona and football history with golden letters:
X A V I
May 23, 2015
Así se despide a una leyenda. pic.twitter.com/vKx8CKJBPY— ACTUAL FCB™ (@ActualFCB) May 23, 2015