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14.02.2008 10:47

"I thought I wasn’t good enough"

Xavi Rocamora

In this second part of the interview, Xavi talks about his career in Barça from the moment he joined the boys’ team right up to the present day.

Xavi Hernández joined the Club in July 1991 at the age of 11 and made his first team debut seven years later under Louis Van Gaal. Now he’s very close to celebrating his 400th competitive match. Although he now has a place among the great names that have played for the Club, he reveals here that at the beginning he wasn’t sure whether he had what it takes to make a success with Barça.

-Reaching 400 matches is a special moment...

“It’s so exciting to play so many matches for Barça and I’m proud to have been here so many years. Johan Cruyff always said that it was more difficult to keep your place than make the breakthrough. I believe I’ve still got plenty left in me. Your body notices it but I’m happy and I’m just as excited as on the first day”.

-400 matches provide a lot of memories...

xavi1302x9x.jpgYou look back and you think about things that happened so many years ago that you don’t realise. You live each day as it comes and you don’t realise what you’ve actually done. But I’m very happy with all my memories – all the trainers, the team-mates and the people that have helped me be where I am now”.

-Figures like these – your 400th match – tend to be given a lot of importance in the media. Do you see it as important as well?

“The truth is I don’t. Two weeks ago I was told there were only three or four games to reach 400. I wasn’t counting them and neither was I counting the number of goals or passes... You just live one day at a time. You try and give 100% in every match, do your best for the team and try and reach your objectives, which are the titles”.

Do you know how many players have worn the shirt of FC Barcelona in more competitive matches than you?

“Well, no”.

Only 6: Migueli (548), Rexach (452), Guillermo Amor (421), Andoni Zubizarreta (410), Segarra (402) and Rifé (401). What comes into your head when you think that you are already a part of Barça history and a part of such a select group?

“These are legendary players in the history of the Club. I know I’m a long way from Migueli (548), who heads the list. I only hope to continue for more years in Barça because it’s the Club of my life and it’s where I feel most comfortable. I want to continue being important for Barça”.

-The fact is that at the age of just 28 you’ve got a long time left to increase this figure...

“I’ve got two years left on my contract and I believe I’ve got enough left in me to carry on playing more matches for Barça. And above all winning titles, which is the most important thing”.

-Now that you know that you’re on the verge of reaching it, do you think about the 400th match?

“You start thinking about it. You start counting the games you have left. There’s only one left and if everything goes well I’ll play it. I hope to contribute to changing this dynamic we have at the moment in the league and win the titles at stake”.

-Talking of fight backs, you’ve already played 399 matches and you’ve scored 31 goals. Some of them have served to overturn adverse situations. Do you remember any one in particular?

xavi_madrid-fcb_temp0304_bernabeu.jpg“Most of all I remember the Madrid goal (2003/04 season). These are games you always remember. There are others, against Espanyol, for example, but the one I remember most is the day against Madrid. Madrid was in poor form and we came on the back of a spectacular second half to the season. It was like the confirmation of Barça at that moment and it meant a change in the cycle. Scoring the goal 2 or 3 minutes before the end and doing it in the Bernabéu... It’s the nicest goal I remember”.

-Speaking of goals, people must have reminded you loads of times of the one you scored away to Valladolid in your first season in the first team.

“Yes, it was also very important. It broke the negative dynamic of the first half of the season. It seemed like Van Gaal could be sacked. We were in a delicate situation but after that goal everything changed. We put together a spectacular run of wins until we won the league title. That goal is remembered as a crucial event in reaching that objective”.

-Your first goal was on your debut, in the Spanish Super Cup against Mallorca almost ten years ago...

“That day was incredible. The day before the match, Louis Van Gaal told me I would play. Scoring in the 15th minute really calmed my nerves”.

Certain images are repeated again and again, such as the celebrations of the league titles and the Champions League.

“That’s my best memory (Champions League 2005/06). Although I didn’t take part, I really felt it was mine. I was injured that season but it was the best the team’s played in recent years. Therefore, we’ll try and reach that level again, and we believe it’s possible. We believe in ourselves, we know we can manage it and that we have the squad to do it”.

-You have won more titles than any other player in the squad.

“It’s logical because I’ve been in the team for many years. But I’d like to win more. I believe we’ve got the team to do it and I hope I can chalk up many more titles in the two and a half years I’ve got left on my contract”.

-You’ve been in the Club for 16 years. You joined at the age of 11. Who would have said that today you would be celebrating your 400th match?

xavi1302x10x.jpg“Dead right. At the time you don’t even think about it. The mere act of being with Barça was already insuperable for me. I really didn’t believe it. I thought it was a joke. I had the feeling that I wasn’t good enough to play here. They gradually gave me confidence, they made me captain. Asensi gave me a lot of confidence in the first year. You’re very young but as you progress you start seeing that you have a chance but at the same time you think it’ll be very difficult. Then Van Gaal gave me a chance. I thought my moment had arrived. I could achieve it”.

-Does the frenetic pace of travelling and matches remind you of your times in the youth teams?

“I remember a lot of stories. Above all, trainers and team-mates. I’ve still got a lot of friends from those days in the youth teams. It’s a fantastic time because nobody knows you and you’re doing what you really like. You’re competing at a high level, you’re in Barça and you learn concepts that you probably wouldn’t be taught in another team. You’re in the club of your life. I’m a real Barça fan and when I came here I fulfilled the dream of my life – to be able to play one day for Barça”.

-Does the fact that players like Bojan and Giovani are breaking into the first team from the reserves helps refresh those memories?

“Yes. I talk a lot with Bojan. For example about trainers that are working with the youth teams. Because the most important ones are still here, Benaiges, Alexanco... The people that have seen all the players pass through the youth teams”.
“I thought I wasn’t good enough“

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Two wishes
-We’ll finish by asking you to make two wishes. The first one in the short term.

“Of course. To try and win the titles that are at stake. All three. Why not? We know it’ll be difficult but we’ll give 100% to manage it. That’s my wish”.

-In the long term?

“To see out my contract here. To stay for many years and finished my career in FC Barcelona. I know it’s very difficult because it’s incredibly demanding but I hope to stay here for the two and a half years that are left and enjoy them to the full, with titles”.

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