Xavi: 'The Exorcist's daughter' and the man Maradona calls a 'football master'

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The Spaniard discusses how he compensated for a lack of pace during his time at Camp Nou to become one of the best midfielders in the world

Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez has given an insight into how his mind works on a football pitch and revealed the bizarre nickname his team-mates gave him.

The 38-year-old plans to retire from professional football at the end of the season after a glittering career that saw him win four Champions League trophies and eight La Liga titles, among many other team and personal accolades.

After leaving Barca in 2015, Xavi joined Al Sadd, with his third season with the Qatar club now set to be his last.

Speaking to So Foot, the former Spain international revealed how he reacts to situations to be effective on a football pitch and that he relies on the decisions he makes as he compensates for a lack of pace.

When asked how he felt about Diego Maradona labelling him a 'football master', Xavi said: "That's brutal, right? Coming from Maradona, an idol.

"But I am not a football genius. I am just a student of Johan Cruyff's school, and Cruyff summarised football in a sentence: 'Football should be played with the mind'. 

"I have had to use my brain to play football. I am not Kylian Mbappe. How does he play? He runs, pushes the ball, passes a player. I don't have Mbappe's legs, but I use my brain. I compensate like that.

"I came to Barca when I was 11 and, from the first day, I was forced to understand everything I did. We cannot play football if we don't understand everything that happens on the pitch. It goes deeper than just the contact between the foot and the ball.

"Each reflection, each question, opens new perspectives. Why are we asked to create space for each other? Or to open up the game? It's logic.

"Imagine that I have the ball and I want to give it to a team-mate but an opponent is in the middle of the two of us and wants to take the ball. If there is enough space between my team-mate and l, the opponent can't do anything.

"I think like: 'If he comes to me, I pass the ball to my team-mate'. And bam, the ball has already gone in the other direction. If we are in a confined space, we can easily lose the ball. That's the mantra of Cruyff.

Xavi

"When we don't have the ball, what should we do? Defend high up the pitch and quickly. Why? To f****** stifle the opponent by closing the spaces. The less space we give our opponents, the less chance they have to reach our goal. What's football? It's space-time."

Xavi also replied to the critics that believe the way Barcelona dominate matches is boring, and also revealed the nickname his team-mates gave him.

He added: "It's incredible [the criticism]! Who is boring? Barca or the team playing against them? Sometimes I hear: 'Barca is not dangerous enough'. But how can you be when you have 11 players in front of the goal?

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"It's impossible. The team that plays on the back foot is not the team that tries to play football, but refuses to. Isn't it boring when you watch teams wasting time or sending the ball into the stands to break the rhythm of play?

"In front of ultra-defensive teams, I ask myself: 'How can I find spaces? There are not any!' But there are always spaces. You have to move the ball from one side to the other, move and move again, and there you go, there is the space.

"I spent my life searching for it, finding ways to find it. Where is there space? How do I make it happen? I was turning my head in all directions, I was nicknamed 'The Exorcist's daughter'. I do not tum my head 360 degrees like her, but there are games where I have rotated mine more than 500 times!"

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