Three legends who have left their homes: Xavi, Gerrard and Lampard
The end of 2014-15 season marked new champions in Barcelona and Chelsea. However it also marked the last time we will see the likes of Xavi Hernandez, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard ever play in the respective leagues in which they made their names – the Spanish La Liga and the English Premier League.
What makes these 3 players worth paying a tribute? To start with, just their sheer experience and consistency! Xavi has made 750 appearances for Barcelona, a club record! He also features among the top 3 in the most La Liga appearances list having taken to the pitch 494 times in the top flight. Both Steven Gerrard (504) and Frank Lampard(603) are part of an elite list of players who made more than 500 appearances in the EPL.
Another thing to note is that despite Gerrard, Lampard and Xavi all being central midfielders they are 3 completely different footballers.
Gerrard is a dynamic box to box midfielder with an eye for a lofted pass, strong in the tackle and tremendous long range shooting ability.
Lampard is amongst a rare breed of offensive midfielders who supplement the attack but also have an uncanny sense of timing, positional awareness and finishing ability in the box.
Xavi though is the typical midfield maestro ,keeping the team ticking on the ball with his pinpoint passing.
The Barcelona hero has had a glittering career so far, winning every trophy there is to win with Barcelona a record haul of 24 (8 La Liga,3 Champions League trophies). With his country Spain he won their 3 biggest trophies - World Cup 2010, Euro 2008 and 2012.
Xavi forged a wonderful midfield partnership with Andres Iniesta not only for club but also for country. Their understanding was telepathic and together they were the architects for most of Barca’s fluid passing moves. They laid the pedestal for the goal scoring exploits of prodigious forwards Messi, Henry, Eto’o, Villa, Neymar and recently Suarez.
Xavi and Iniesta were the embodiment of Pep Guardiola’s tiki-taka style of play which yielded Barcelona unprecedented success. He was the “metronome”, the heartbeat of Barca’s fluid passing game, controlling the game from a deep midfield position alongside the more defensive Busquets. Xavi made over 180 assists in his long career and saved his best for the Clasico, with Madrid being at the receiving end of his pinpoint through balls.
Perhaps his more important ones came in the Champions League finals -for that memorable Messi header in 08, and the Pedro finish in 2010, both against Manchester United.
Accurate and precise in the pass, he boasts of an enviable 91.2 career pass completion rate. Xavi’s goals for the club started with one on his debut in August 1998. Possessing great long range technique and good placement his direct free kicks and curling corners gave many a goalkeepers a cause of concern.
Xavi arguably enjoyed his best seasons under Guardiola from 2008 to 2012. Xavi is seen by many as Pep Guardiola’s midfield successor with both having great understanding of the game, intelligence on and off the ball and superb passing ability.
Having played with him earlier, and coached Xavi during his Barca management stint, here is what Guardiola himself had to say on him – “Xavi is a player who has the Barcelona DNA: someone who has the taste for good football, someone who is humble and someone who has loyalty to this club; from the first moment I saw him play, I knew he would become the brain behind Barcelona for many years to come.”