Xavier Hernandez i Creus
Date Of Birth: 25 January, 1980
Place Of Birth: Terrassa, Spain
Playing Position: Midfielder
A graduate of Barcelona's famous La Masia Youth Academy, Xavi has played for the Blaugrana throughout his ongoing career. Since making his debut on 18 August 1998, Xavi has played more than 660 games, scoring 77 goals and serving almost 160 assists to 50 different players. A technically gifted player, Xavi reminds fellow Spaniards of the great Luis Suarez Miramontes, who used to be Xavi-esqe during this playing days. An integral part of Barcelona and Spain, Xavi forms the core of both teams and dictates their intricate tiki-taka style of play.
“Spain Deliver at last”
The 13th European Championship was hosted jointly by Austria and Switzerland. Spain started as favourites along with Germany this time around. Spain were reinvigorated under Luis Aragones as the "wise man from Hortaleza" had changed the side dramatically in terms of their playing style and approach. Spain were drawn into Group D along with Russia, Sweden and holders Greece. They started their European conquest in an emphatic fashion as Spain's talent showed their intent early on. They beat Russia 4-1 in the opening game courtesy of a David Villa hat-trick and a Cesc Fabregas header. Xavi was the pivot in the midfield and was involved in two of the goals. Spain beat Sweden 2-1 in the second group game to book a place in the next round as David Villa and Fernando Torres were on target. La Roja rested ten players in the third group game versus Greece and ran out 2-1 winners.
The Iberians faced Italy in the quarterfinals and the match remained goal-less for 120 minutes. Xavi again excelled with his metronomic passing and brilliant vision but Spain failed to break Italy's highly organised back line. Iker Casillas was the penalty shootout hero as he saved Danielle De Rossi and Antonio Di Natale's spot kicks. Spain faced an inspired Russian side in the semifinals than the one they had beaten in the first match. It took Spain until the 50th minute to score as Xavi spread possession onto the left for Iniesta to run at the opponents and cross in the ball for him to poke it through the legs of Igor Akinfeev. Goals from Dani Guiza and David Silva capped off an impressive Spanish performance.
Xavi in action during the semifinal vs Russia
Spain faced Germany in the final and won it courtesy of a Fernando Torres goal. A neat interplay in the midfield allowed Xavi to send a through ball for Torres to run onto and El Nino out muscled Phillip Lahm and chipped over the onrushing Jens Lehmann to score the game's solitary goal. Spain's 44-year wait for a trophy came to an end at EURO 2008 as Luis Aragonés' side defeated Germany 1-0 to deservedly win a competition they had taken by storm. Spain's EURO 2008 triumph did not merely end the Roja's 44-year wait for a major title, it ushered in a new era, where brain prevailed over brawn. As many as 6 Spanish players were a part of the Team of the Tournament and Xavi was named as the Player of the Tournament.
Xavi has won all there is to win with club and country. He has won the La Liga six times, the Copa Del Rey twice and five time winner of the Supercopa de Espana. Xavi has three Champions League Winners' medal along with two UEFA Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cup medals. A silver medalist in the Olympics with Spain, he won the the FIFA Youth Championship before going on to win the Euro 2008 and the FIFA World Cup 2010. Xavi is a constant presence in various edtions of the Team of the Year. However, he is unlucky not to have won any Player of the Year award as he finished second or third in numerous awards like the Ballon d'Or or the FIFA Player of the Year. Xavi has been decorated with the Gold Medal of the Royal Order of Sporting Merit and also the Prince of Asturias Award.
"Style of Play"
Xavi's stake to claim as one of the best midfielders of his generation relies largely on his ability to find and exploit space. As said by Xavi himself: "That's what I do: look for spaces. All day. I'm always looking". Xavi's abnormally good vision, pinpoint accurate passing and world class ball control allows him to dictate the flow of play whilst rarely relinquishing possession. His ability to completely control some matches has earned him the sobriquet, "The Puppet Master".