Barcelona: Why Xavi, not Messi, is Barcelona’s most important player
The 2011-2012 season in Spain saw Real Madrid finish nine points above Barcelona and subsequently wrestle the La Liga crown from the Catalan giant's grip, ending a four-year wait for los Blancos.
Whilst Real themselves possess a wonderfully, star-studded squad packed full of skill and flair, spearheaded by the mercurial Cristiano Ronaldo, most believe this is just a blip in Barcelona's dominance, and many predict a return to trophy-winning ways for the team many have dubbed 'the greatest club side in history'.
The one man this could depend on the most is Xavi Hernandez.
Undoubtedly many will disagree with that statement and the reasons are understandable. Last season Lionel Messi amassed a staggering 73 goals in all competitions, setting a new world record for most goals in a season for a professional.
There’s no doubt Messi is a better player than Xavi overall. Many have labelled the Argentinian maestro ‘the greatest player of all time’ and perhaps bar only the legendary Diego Maradona it would be hard to argue otherwise. The question is whether Messi and Barcelona in general would be as effective without the aid and the service of Xavi, and the answer to that is no.
Whilst Messi’s unbelievable strike rate is a major factor in Barca’s recent success, the squad has goalscorers and match winners aplenty. David Villa is one of the best strikers in world football, and Iniesta, Xavi, Alexis Sanchez, Pedro, Dani Alves and Fabregas all possess a big threat going forward. So whilst not being as dangerous an outfit without Messi, they would still find enough goals to win games, whereas without Xavi they would struggle to maintain the pressure they exert on the opposition.
It’s Xavi’s pinpoint accuracy and outrageous pass statistics that form the platform for the majority of Barca’s attacks and without him, and the constant supply of service he provides, Messi would need to drop deeper to pick up more of the ball, thus compromising some of his attacking potency.
Andres Iniesta, who usually sits towards the left flank, does provide his share of the creativity, but in the past when Xavi’s been out injured Iniesta hasn’t looked the same player and without Xavi in the team Barca have lacked their customary fluidity.
Although there are some very promising players that are ready to take up the mantle when the ageing Xavi retires, none are yet nearly as accomplished in the role as he is.
Cesc Fabregas, a fantastic player and at 25 is still young, and Thiago Alcantara, the 21-year Brazilian-born playmaker, are both similar players and worthy candidates to step in when he retires and one of these players will eventually replace him and possibly become ‘the next Xavi’.
But one thing’s for sure, if Barca were to lose their midfield orchestrator to a lengthy injury, they could have a hell of a fight on their hands hitting the dizzy heights of recent years.
Article by Darryl Rigby
Calling all football fans: Do you agree with Darryl? Is Xavi more important to Barcelona than the mercurial talent of Lionel Messi? Whatever your view, we'd love to hear from you.