Sid Lowe has a point. The Guardian’s Spanish football correspondent wasn’t the only one to observe the telling contribution Barcelona’s midfield general Xavi has made to his side’s current superlative performances.
Lowe heralded Xavi’s most recent dazzling performance in the El Clasico against Real Madrid, then concluding that without the 30-year-old, Barce wouldn’t be Barce.
Against Madrid the pass master picked the perfect occasion to exhibit his most pertinent powers, beautifully assisting both Barcelona’s goals in their 2-0 win that sees them gain an invaluable head-length lead in the title race.
Yes, most have been hasten to praise the magical displays of Lionel Messi, with the possibility of neglecting the role Xavi plays for the side. But as majestic as Xavi is on the ball, Messi’s innate ability to score at will, is hard to replicate.
Xavi is like a churlish child who wishes to have his toy at all times, lost and disgruntled whenever someone else has it. But passing successfully a record number of times, I’m afraid, wins you games not titles.
If you single out Xavi and suggest he’s key t Barce’s successes, you’re then ignoring the steely contributions of the Catalan’s centre-half pairing in Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique. Both have imitiated defensive robots at the back, rarely putting a foot wrong, with the two working tirelessly to triumphantly thwart Real Madrid’s Ronaldo last weekend.
Then there’s Daniel Alves, whose pace and trickery in defence and attack makes heavy duty work for the opposition’s left side.
Between 1999-2004 Barcelona failed to win a trophy. Xavi started his Barce career in 1998 and was ranked as one of Spain’s most prized youngsters, with the ball and the world at his feet. But for all the midfielder’s technical talent, more was needed if his team were to win the league.
That arrived in 2004 – Messi’s first senior season at the Nou Camp. Although Messi wasn’t the Messi we droll at now, his tenacity and fearlessness against the biggest and meanest defences made many stand up and realise something special was on the horizon.
Xavi, however much he represents the admirable pass and move ethos at Barce, is replaceable. Cesc Fabregas is waiting in the wing and someone very much a part of the same school of thought as Xavi – a player who loves to dictate play and the outcome through his dominance in possession.
Yet Fabregas – with 15 assists in 27 games this season – can also grab his fare share of goals. 15 goals this season makes him Arsenal’s top goalscorer, and with the 22-year-old looking more beefier these days, the midfielder’s ability to finish as well as start moves makes him a hotter prospect than Xavi ever was.
But is there another Messi out there?