The term ‘legend’ does little to cover the incredible achievements of former Spain and Barcelona midfielder Xavi.
The 35-year-old is rightly considered one of the finest central midfielders in history, embodying the revered ‘tiki-taka’ short-passing game which spurred both club and country to incredible success.
In more than 700 matches for Barca after coming through their fabled La Masia academy, he lifted eight La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues and two FIFA Club World Cups.
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Internationally, he was at the vanguard of a generation which brought perennial-underachievers Spain to victory at Euro 2008, 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.
The addias ambassador took on a new challenge at Qatar’s Al Sadd this summer, from where he made the short trip to Dubai on Monday to the new flagship GO-Sports store at Mall of the Emirates where he spoke about El Clasico, Neymar and Al Ain’s Omar Abdulrahman.
Q. What did you make of this weekend’s 4-0 El Clasico victory for Barcelona at Real Madrid?
A. It was an amazing game for Barca. Barca was much better than Real Madrid at everything – in attack, in defence, the rhythm, the intensity. They are an amazing team and it was an historic team and game for Barcelona.
I am very happy to watch the game and congratulations to all the team. To Luis Enrique, all the staff, to everybody who works there.
Q. Did you miss not being in the game?
A. That is normal. It is an historic game.
But it is enough for me. I enjoy it a lot before and I am very happy for my friends, my colleagues, for Luis Enrique, the spectators, the Barca fans. I am very happy.
Q. Do you think Neymar can be as good as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi?
A. I do not know, maybe in the futute. For me the best player in this moment and in history is Messi. Maybe in the future, Neymar is an amazing football player. It is still early to say this.
Q. Do you think Rafael Beitez should be given more time?
A. I don’t know. It is normal if the score is 4-0, there are problems in Real Madrid for the coach, the players and the president. It is not a normal scoreline. The feelings are bad for Real Madrid, no? For the future of Real Madrid, I am a fan of Barca. I watch more for Barca than Real Madrid?
Q. How has your experience been in Qatar until now?
A. I am very happy to be here and be in Qatar. I have a very good project until the 2022 World Cup. I am still a player at Al Sadd and I enjoy being in the field. Also, helping in the Aspire Academy it is fantastic for me to coach, maybe in the future.
Q. How do you see Arabic football?
It is at at a very high level, especially technically and it is physical also. The difference to Europe is tactical.
For example, the teams in Europe work more on their tactical training than here.
Q. Have you seen or heard much about the UAE’s Omar Abdulrahman?
A. Yes. I know him.He is a very good player and a very good talent. He is a good talent. Maybe it is possible for him to play in the future in Europe, for example. He is at a high level.
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Q. How important is it for the Arabic nations to develop that they get players to Europe?
A. It is very important for him and the Arabic players and countries in the future to be a competitive country. Yes, it is good for them.
Q. What have you made of Sergio Roberto’s performances in the Barcelona midfield this season?
A. They have been very good. I am very happy for him. He is a very nice person and a good professional, always working hard. I am very happy for him. Sergio is a very good player. Now, he is playing very well. It is amazing for Sergio Roberto.
Q. How do you feel about Barca’s hopes of retaining the Champions League?
A. I hope Barca continues to win. Why not be the first team to retain the Champions League? They must not change the mentality to continue to win. hey have everything to continue to win, sure. Why not? It is difficult, the Champions League. It is very difficult, but Barca can.
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