Xavi, heir to the throne

The deal was confirmed at the backend of December, but yesterday Xavi Hernandez put pen to paper on a contract extension that should see him finish out his career at Barcelona. The 33-year-old finalised an additional two years to his contract alongside Blaugrana President Sandro Rosell on Monday afternoon, committing him to June 2016.

Xavi has settled perfectly into Tito Vilanova’s system at the Camp Nou, where the only substantial difference from the last several years being that the side has been achieving results without completely dominating games. The Spaniard’s partnership with Andres Iniesta has been left untouched, while the former assistant had found a place for Cesc Fabregas where previous boss Pep Guardiola could not. 

A product of La Masia, the midfielder has picked up 20 major honours both domestically and internationally since making his senior team debut in 1998. While the remainder of the current campaign looks promising – and the midfielder is bound to add his trophy cabinet before hanging up his boots – the genuine excitement could lie beyond the limitations of his newly signed deal.

“Leave me alone, and just let me play football,” shrugged Xavi when questioned about the possibility of taking over the reins as Barcelona Coach in early 2012. But before Guardiola’s resignation speech last term and Vilanova’s hasty appointment announced on the very same day, it was widely regarded that the playmaker was being primed to step into the hot seat.  

Xavi was known as Guardiola’s ‘eyes and ears’ on the pitch during his time as the tactician. The pair have been very close since 1999, when the former gradually replaced the latter as the mainstay in the middle of the park for the Blaugrana. “I idealised everything about Pep – how he talked, his leadership on the pitch,” admitted the Catalan native recently.

“From the first moment I saw him play, I knew he would become the brain behind Barcelona for many years to come,” reciprocated Guardiola when quizzed on the subject. In the manner in which one replaced the other on the pitch, the question was whether they could once again change places.

Rinus Michels – the inventor of ‘total football’ at Ajax – mentored Johan Cruyff from the field to the sidelines. Later the Dutch legend brought that style to Catalonia and marshalled Guardiola. Could Xavi simply be the latest heir to the tiki-taka throne?

Xavi undoubtedly possesses all the attributes to make a seamless transition to the sidelines, even if his time in amongst the action on the pitch is not quite over yet.