Xavi Hernández, arguably the best Spanish player of history, has announced his retirement from international football.
It was not unexpected; he was close to leaving the team in 2012 (after the Euro Championships, but Vicente del Bosque persuaded him to stay), and then there was Spain’s disappointing World Cup in Brazil.
The lighthouse of the tiki-taka, of the most successful period of Spanish soccer, honoured with two European Championships and one World Cup, will be so difficult – almost impossible – to find a replacement for.
In fact, Del Bosque admitted after the news broke that Xavi was “more important” for Spain than even him.
An architect of the impossible and the brain of the most beautiful soccer, Xavi quits the Spanish team after 133 caps and 14 years of glorious service, mostly concentrated on the last six, coinciding with the amazing age of Spanish soccer.
His idyll with Spain started time ago, in 1999, when he led – along with Iker Casillas – the team who won the Under-20 World Cup.
Since then we have seen ‘tempo’ and silk for the construction of the beautiful game; intelligence and an eagerness for caressing the ball, rather than playing unnecessary long balls.
He became a leader who truly believed in the philosophy which brought so much success to club and country. Pep Guardiola and Luis Aragonés sought it crystalline and gave him the prominence based on the refined threat of the ball.
He commanded, with his best friend Andres Iniesta, the relevance of this style, becoming soccer in poetry until the age and exacerbated amount of games made his performances slower and predictable.
But he will always persist with his magical vision and the precision of his assists, like the deep one that played Fernando Torres in for the winning goal at Euro 2008.
Unfairly, he never received the Ballon D’Or, a prize that would have rewarded the supremacy of the hedonist style he maintained. But Xavo never complained about it; he was a team worker and never wanted the role of superstar. He trusts that the secret of success resides on the power of the collective. That’s exactly what happened with Spain and recently with Germany.
Xavi has been convinced by Luis Enrique to stay at Barcelona for at least two more years, but for Spain the tedious task of finding his successor now starts.
Meanwhile, Spanish supporters and soccer admirals can only be thankful for his beautiful service which made Spain the powerhouse of world football – and in the most beautiful manner.
Hasta siempre Xavi...