Xavi: Louis van Gaal told me I was better than Zinedine Zidane
Legendary Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez has said that he was told by his first manager Louis van Gaal that he was better than Zinedine Zidane. Van Gaal gave Xavi his debut at the age of 17, during his first tenure as manager of the Catalans in 1998.
This comparison was made by the Dutch manager, currently working with Manchester United, when Xavi was breaking into the first-team at Barcelona, and Zidane was being touted as the best young player in the world. The Spanish midfielder said that Van Gaal was a great influence on him and that the club were not fair with him while sacking him.
He said, "[Van Gaal] taught me a lot. He told me 'you are better than Zidane’. I told him thanks, but not to get carried away. I have had a lot of good luck, have had great coaches. We were very unjust with him, he was a great coach."
Following the La Liga title win in 1999, the club went 5 years without a title, and Xavi said that he was criticised a lot during that time. "Yes, when we were winning I got a lot of attention. But when we were losing, everything was doubted, beginning with me. We lost our essence. We changed coach all the time, we did not find any stability until Rijkaard arrived. And Ronaldinho. When we have won we have done it through possession, with the ball, attacking to defend ourselves. The only solution we have is to be ourselves.”
“Pedro and Busquets don’t get credit they deserve”
He spoke about how important Pedro Rodriguez and Sergio Busquets are to the club and said that their contributions are undervalued by people outside the club. "Because [Pedro and Busquets] have exceptional talent and enormous commitment, but they are not recognised so much, that bugs me," he said.
"I know how hard it is to get here, and they have done that. They have won everything and always been at the service of the team, like Jordi [Alba]. Always.
Similarly, he also felt that Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique have been critical, but just like Messi and himself, they have received a lot of praise, when compared to Pedro and Busquets.”
“Pedro and Sergio are two enormous players. What Pedro has done is exceptional -- come through the youth system, to get where he has you have to applaud. And Busi -- I have never seen such an intelligent player on the pitch."
Luis Enrique persuaded me to stay for one more season: Xavi
The midfield maestro also said that the signing of Luis Suarez and arrival of Luis Enrique as manager convinced him to stay. "I knew Luis Suarez was coming, I spoke with Luis Enrique. Luis has been a 10 in his dealings with me. He was always honest and said things to my face. Some people might think I am upset at not playing so much, but just the opposite. I owe him one, as he was one of those who convinced me to stay. What a relief I did..."
He said that watching from the bench was tough, but that he had adjusted to it, saying, "Look, I was taken off at Valencia with just 10 minutes left, and I jumped back on the pitch to celebrate the [injury-time winning] goal from Busi. I hugged Luis Enrique. He had taken me off but I was not even angry. I have 'changed the chip.' I wanted to finish well, with a trophy, and look now.
"I spoke the other day to [Carles] Puyol, who could neither play nor win anything [when he retired]. Look at how I said goodbye to the Camp Nou, incredible. All the pieces of the puzzle came together. Scandalous. I could never have imagined an end like this, it is like a movie."