Xavi Hernandez has reflected that he and Barcelona remain as ambitious now as they have been in recent seasons.
The midfielder sat down with FIFA’s official website to talk through a number of subjects and, in focusing on last year’s disappointment in the League and Europe, reflected that the team’s hunger for more trophies remains intact.
“Well, sometimes things either go your way or they don’t, and in that case last season they didn’t, especially in the games against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and then the Camp Nou, where we had the tie in the bag, with them down to 10 men, only to let it slip,” reflected Xavi in the interview published today.
“The same happened in the League. This year we’ve been turning those kinds of things our way, making every game count. My feeling is we were just a bit below our usual standard last season and we ended up paying for it.
“Did Pep Guardiola’s departure weigh us down? I don’t see it that way because we have a very competitive team.
“Watch us train and you realise how much we want to win, even in the practice matches. The hunger is still there. We’ve got practically the same squad this season and the results have been just about perfect.
“Do we owe something to the fans? No, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that. We’ve already won a lot. We want to make Barcelona supporters happy and we get a kick out of that, as much as the fans do.
“I don’t feel we’re in debt to them because of one bad season. All it does is make us even more determined to start winning things again.”
The veteran was asked for his take on what is similar and different between Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova.
“They’re very similar. We’ve had a bit more fortune this year but we’ve been working more or less the same way, which is what you’d expect.
“Tito was Pep’s assistant Coach and they worked a lot together. They’re different characters but the training sessions are pretty much the same, the system is the same and our desire undiminished. It’s been a case of continuity, in every sense of the word.
“Where we slow at the start of this season? My feeling was that we weren’t quite there in terms of fitness, and we found it hard, especially with teams knowing us so well.
“It was just a question of picking up the pace again and sticking to our style. In the last two or three months the team has got back into the groove we’ve been in over the last few years.
“On a personal level I feel happy and satisfied [for the lead over Real Madrid in the League]. It’s a very long race and there are still a lot of games to go, but we’ve got a massive cushion and we’re moving closer to the league title, no doubt about it.
“The team is very competitive and we want to do well in every competition. We’d like to win the lot but we have to watch our step. The talent is there for sure, but we need luck to be on our side too.”
Whilst last season was disappointing at club level, Xavi was part of the national squad that won the European Championship in the summer, to make it a historic three international competition titles in a row.
“We’ve got a very good team. There’s a huge amount of talent and a lot of desire too. When you start making a habit of winning, it’s very important that you put a little pressure on yourself and take some responsibility for the next challenge ahead.
“We’ve had a little bit of luck too, in the penalties against Portugal, for example. But then we went and played a great final against Italy and set the seal on all the hard work this generation has put in, a generation that is as good as it gets as far as I’m concerned.
“Is luck important? Yes. And there have been times when it’s been on our side. It’s what they call the luck of the champions. When it’s come to the crunch things have always gone our way: against Paraguay in the World Cup, Italy at EURO 2008, Portugal a few months ago and against Croatia in the same tournament too. We’ve had luck. Of course we have. But we’ve also got a competitive streak, and that’s helped us make the most of it.”
The midfielder was asked of his work in helping alleviate the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid when in the Spain camp.
“How did we manage? By putting it to one side. When we get together we all know that we want the same objective. I’m big friends with Iker Casillas, and they even gave the two of us an award [The Prince of Asturias Award for Sport]. You can see that friendship when we play together. As well as putting our rivalry to one side in the national team, we also forget about our friendship when we’re playing for our respective clubs, though we never lose our cool or our respect for each other.
“The rivalry has always been that way. I’ve spent my whole life at Barcelona and it’s a football war. Some people use it to sell things but it’s good for football, the League and the national team. To be honest it makes you proud that we’ve got such big teams here.”
Also, Xavi was asked if he followed how the media cover football in Spain.
“I like to read the papers. I make my living from football and I like to know what’s going on. Obviously there are a lot of different opinions out there, but we live in a democracy and you have to respect every point of view, whether you agree with it or not.”