Xavier “Xavi” Hernández Creus is a Spanish professional footballer who plays as a central midfielder for Qatari club Al Sadd. Xavi came through La Masia, the Barcelona youth academy, at age 11 and made his first-team debut against Mallorca in August 1998. Since then, he has played 700 matches, scored 82 goals and made more than 180 assists for over 50 players. Xavi is the first player in Barcelona’s history to play 150 international matches. Highly regarded for his humble persona and team ethos, Xavi is viewed as being the embodiment of the tiki-taka passing style of play, and is widely considered to be one of the greatest central midfielders of all time. He is also considered by many to be the greatest Spanish player ever. Xavi won the U-20 World Cup for Spain in 1999, and the Olympic Silver Medal at the 2000 Olympics. Since making his senior team debut in 2000, he has been capped 133 times for the Spain national team, and has been seen as an influential figure in the team’s tremendous success. He played an integral role in Spain’s victory at the 2010 World Cup, as well as their successes at both Euro 2008 and Euro 2012. He had a 91% passing success rate at the 2010 World Cup and was named in the World Cup All-Star Team. He was named Player of the Tournament by UEFA at Euro 2008. He was also named in the UEFA Euro Team of the Tournament in 2008 as well as 2012. After the 2014 World Cup, Xavi announced his retirement from international football. Xavi has won 30 trophies, only surpassed by Andrés Iniesta as the most successful Spanish player in history. He came third in the 2009 FIFA World Player of the Year, followed by third place for its successor award, the FIFA Ballon d’Or, in 2010 and 2011. In 2011, he was runner up to Lionel Messi for the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award. He has been awarded the IFFHS World’s Best Playmaker award for four years: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011. Xavi has been included in the UEFA Team of the Year for five years (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012), and has been voted into the FIFA World XI on six occasions: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. At Euro 2012, with his two assists in the final, Xavi became the first player to register assists in two separate Euro finals, having set up the lone goal in the final four years earlier. He was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Sports in 2012.
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On 5 August 2014, following the 2014 World Cup where Spain were eliminated at the group stage, Xavi announced his retirement from international football, having made 133 appearances in a 14-year period. Spain’s World Cup-winning manager Vicente del Bosque paid tribute, stating that Xavi was “a key part of the team’s style of play” and “he was more important to us than even the manager”, also adding, “We will miss him both on and off the pitch. He is a player who we hold in great esteem both personally and as a player. He is and always will be a person and a player who is greatly valued by the federation, the coaching staff and by myself.”
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The claim that Xavi is one of the best central midfielders of all-time relies largely on his ability to find and exploit space as a playmaker. As he said, “That’s what I do: look for spaces. All day. I’m always looking.” Finding space, he would appear for a teammate to receive and then move the ball on, with his coach Pep Guardiola putting it. “I get the ball, I give the ball, I get the ball, I give the ball.” Xavi’s vision, pinpoint accurate passing and world-class ball control allowed him to dictate the flow of play while rarely relinquishing possession, most notably displayed during Spain’s 2010 World Cup victory where he had a 91% passing success rate for the tournament. His ability to control some matches has earned him the sobriquet, “The Puppet Master“. A style introduced to the club by former coach Johan Cruyff, Barcelona president Sandro Rosell believed Xavi, together with Lionel Messi, Andrés Iniesta and Sergio Busquets, perfected the club’s tiki-taka style of play.
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Xavi has a sponsorship deal with German sportswear and equipment supplier Adidas and has appeared in Adidas commercials alongside Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Robin van Persie. Xavi wears Adidas Predator LZ football boots. In November 2014, Xavi appeared in FIFA’s “11 against Ebola” campaign with a selection of top football players from around the world, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Gareth Bale and Didier Drogba. Under the slogan “Together, we can beat Ebola”, FIFA’s campaign was done in conjunction with the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and health experts, with the players holding up 11 messages to raise awareness of the disease and ways to combat it.