Five best Spain moments for Xavi following his La Roja retirement
In light of the announcement that iconic Barcelona playmaker Xavi Hernandez has retired from international duty with Spain after earning 133 caps, Coral writers gather together a list his five best moments for La Roja.
The majestic midfield maestro, 34, said in a statement: “I’m grateful for all those years. It has been a fantastic time. I’m not 20 anymore, but I still have the motivation of a kid.
“I want to thank everyone involved in that team for the way they treated me and the respect, and I could not wish for a better time as an international.”
First international cap v Netherlands
The Netherlands are a nation that play a big part in Xavi’s Spain tourney, having been the first side he played against at senior level, on November 15th, 2000. They were also the opposition in Spain’s first World Cup final victory in 2010 but, incidentally, were also the catalyst to La Roja’s woeful exit in Brazil 2014.
Xavi started and played the full match that day on his debut in 2000 and, despite his side losing 2-1 in Seville, he went from strength to strength, becoming arguably his country’s best ever player.
Voted Player of the Tournament at Euro 2008
What better way to win your national side’s first major trophy in 44 years, by being named the best at that tournament? Xavi achieved just that, and thus confirmed his status as an all-time great of the game, with international honours to prove it, as well as domestic success with Barcelona.
“We have chosen Xavi [for the Player of the Tournament award] because he epitomizes the Spanish style of play. He was influential in the whole possession, passing and penetrating kind of game that Spain played,” said the head of UEFA’s technical committee.
When it mattered, the diminutive player rose above all. In the semis against Russia, he scored Spain’s first in the 3-0 victory, while he set up the sole goal for Fernando Torres in the 1-0 win over Germany in the final.
Most Spain caps for an outfield player
Just being capped for your country is a remarkable achievement that any young footballer would dream of, but to gain 133 and have the most for your nation as an outfield player is almost unbelievable to imagine.
Not in his wildest dreams would Xavi have envisioned representing Spain on that many occassions, and he finishes his international innings behind only fellow legend, goalkeeper Iker Casillas – who has 156.
Third on that list is Andoni Zubizarreta (126), while current players Sergio Ramos (119), Xabi Alonso (114), Torres (110) and Xavi’s partner in crime Andres Iniesta (100) will all be aiming to surpass the footballing great.
Silver in Sydney
Xavi’s first taste of success with Spain at senior level was at the 2000 Olympics, when his side won silver in Sydney, Australia.
La Roja lost in the final to a talented Cameroon squad that included Samuel Eto’o, Carlos Kameni, Geremi and Lauren. For Spain, though, their second place finish inspired the likes of Carles Puyol, Carlos Marchena and Joan Capdevila to win the World Cup alongside Xavi 10 years later.
Trophies, participation and legacy
During Xavi’s glittering career, the icon has won everything he possibly can at both club and international level. Two European Championships, one World Cup (Spain’s first), Olympic runner-up and even the World Youth Championship in 1999 proves that everything he touches turns to gold (sometimes silver).
The finals in Brazil were his 10th tournament with the Spain senior side (four World Cups, three Euros, two Confederations Cups and one Olympic Games).
While Xavi has ended his international career, his legacy carries on to the current and younger generation of footballers. He once accredited Paul Scholes and Matt le Tissier as his idols, but he is an icon of many aspiring young midfielders of today, who have all lauded the quiet assassin.
Xavi is one of those who goes about his work without fuss or attention and, despite his non-threatening presence (he is 5ft 7in), just like his clubmates Lionel Messi and Iniesta, he makes his opposition pay.
If you fancy Spain to defend their European Championship title in better fashion than their World Cup crown, you can take odds of 5/1 for them to win without Xavi in France 2016. They are 15/2, meanwhile, to regain the global trophy in 2018.