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18.08.2008 11:54

“I feel I am part of this team”

Marc Guillén

Coinciding with the tenth anniversary of his debut, Xavi Hernández spoke to Barça T.V. and www.fcbarcelona.cat to talk about his years at Barça and also about Guardiola’s team, of which he assures he feels a part of.

It has now been ten years since an18 year-old called Xavi Hernández debuted for the first team at FC Barcelona. That same player who began playing as a midfielder kept growing, he’s won a lot of titles and has gradually moved forward in his position becoming an unbalancing player, as he showed by being chosen as the best player in the Euro 2008 tournament.

Are you having the sweetest period of your football career?

“I’m having one of my best periods. Having won the Euro 2008 and been named best player of the championship it gave me a morale boost and the confidence to face this new season. The fact that I know the new manager, and get on well with him and have played in the same team, makes me feel like I am part of this team”.

In what way has Xavi evolved and changed during these last ten years at the club?

QM3D9674.jpg“I’m the same person. I was taught the ‘Can Barça’ values and I have the same level of studies. On the other hand, as a footballer I’ve evolved and matured. I understand the game more, when to make a pause in the game, what the team needs, I talk more on the pitch, etc.”

You are the player with the third highest total of official games played for FC Barcelona. Do you realise that you are now one of Barça’s legends?

“Yes it’s been a lot of years. I was lucky to start very young, only eighteen years old. I’m very grateful to all the managers who have come and gone. I’m very happy to have done better than all these Barça legends and there are still a couple to beat-Migueli and Rexach- because I’m still strong and feel useful enough to continue playing for FC Barcelona

What do you remember about replacing Pep Guardiola in your first few seasons?

entrevistaxavi0808.jpg“The fact that Pep was injured and that I had to play in his position at the time, when he was a symbol of being a ‘culé’, was an incredible challenge. I was only eighteen to take on the role that Pep played in that team was very difficult. But everyone helped me a lot and Van Gaal trusted me fully. I also remember how much Pep supported me. While he was still injured they wanted us to play together, I remember his maturity and his advice”.

With his character, did Guardiola act as manager while he was still a player?

xavi200102.jpg”As a manager no, but he was a very meticulous and methodical player. He really liked to give orders and have you under control all the time. He was an essential part of that team that’s why he was a player who gave out the orders. He was mad about football and hasn’t changed. He is a person who communicates a lot and I’m very pleased to have known Pep as a footballer and now as a manager.”

After winning the league in your debut season you went five seasons without any titles. How does one survive at Barça without titles?

“It was the worst spell I’ve had at Barça. It was a very sad time for everyone connected to Barça. We weren’t having a very good moment, neither socially nor sportingly, and that weighs you down. But at the same time it makes you stronger. For players like Carles Puyol and myself it was hard. The truth is it’s really sad. Luckily we got back on top.”

In the 2003/04 season Rijkaard arrived as the new trainer, as did new players hungry for titles like Ronaldinho and the dynamics changed years without titles for the club. Are there any similarities between then and now?

26-05-04_Web_entreno_02.jpg“Yes, I think there are similarities, especially the feelings. The feeling the team has given during the pre-season, the dynamics of the play, the winning character, the pressure we put on in the opposite half now, etc. These are situations and sensations which make me think that this year could go really well.”

In the 2004/05 season Barça won the league again after five years, and you were a vital part of that. On an individual level was it your best season?

“Yes that season was probably the best I’ve had with Barça. Rijkaard put me 15 metres further up the pitch, I could have been more significant, and I improved my final passes a lot and had extraordinary players in front of me. The whole team worked perfectly and I felt like a vital part of that team.”

Are the celebrations with the parade and the whole city turned out the best reward?

xavirua.jpg“These celebrations, which you can enjoy with the people on the street and the fans, are the best thing ever. It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had in the world of football and here with Barça.”

Little by little you have pushed your position up the pitch and in the Euro 2008 we saw a more attacking Xavi. Will that be the Xavi we see this season?

“Yes, I think so. I have always played the same way but now Pep doesn’t want me to drop back as much. He wants me to play between the lines because that’s where I do most damage. He wants me to play further up ion order to make the final pass. I hope this helps to win titles.”

Between the goal scoring record of last season (9 goals) and the confidence of being the best player in the Euro2008, are the goalposts getting bigger?

entrevistaxavi0808_x2x.jpg“Right now I feel very confident in front of goal. I suppose maybe you feel more convinced that you’ll reach the area and score. I’m on a good run and I have to make the most of it. I have to go up in attack and shoot more.”

What objectives have you set for this season?

“The feeling is unbeatable, with a great squad and a great manager. From here on the objectives are to win as many titles as possible. This is hard. There will be an added pressure but it’s a challenge for all the footballers and for a manager with a lot at stake. I think we can do it, and we’ll get at least one.”
“I feel I am part of this team”
Debut season
On the 18th of August 1998 you made your debut in the Lluis Sitjar in the first leg of the Spanish Supercup, which ended Mallorca, 2 – Barça, 1. You played from the start and scored a goal. Is having a good debut the key for a good footballer at such a young age?

“It affects you a lot, because these games are very important for a footballer. You look for help from the manager and your teammates, and I got it. They were really confident in me, and that helped. Scoring the goal in the 15th minute gave me more confidence as I was really nervous.”

In your first season you played 16 games, but you also alternated with the reserves, and at the same time you were a teenager of 18 years who was still studying. How did you cope with all this?

“It’s difficult to cope with it all as it comes suddenly and you have to take it on. You go from being someone anonymous to being stopped by everyone on the street. I was lucky to have people around me who educated me well and who also helped me see that life is another story. I’ve always considered football as a job and nothing else. It’s difficult to accept, but I’ve always kept my feet on the ground thanks to the people around me.”

How do you remember the celebration of that League title in your first season?

“It was very special because with the years we have seen that it was the last celebration in the ‘plaza Sant Jaume’. I’m the only player from that youth team in the present team who was able to celebrate titles there and that makes me very fortunate.”

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