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Xavi confident about team’s prospects

Marc Guillén

In this exclusive interview with Barça TV and www.fcbarcelona.cat, Xavi Hernandez takes a wide ranging view of the team’s prospects and remains confident about their options this season.

The Barça midfielder also talks about his recent injury and insists that the recent points dropped at home were down to missing chances.

The fans have 15 days without a game to reflect on the team’s last result. How are you enjoying the break?
"Well, I’m relaxed about it. It’s a strange moment for me, because I’m used to going off with the Spanish team, but it’s been good for me mentally. I’m also happy because my tendon injury is getting better."

You must have given a lot of thought to why we’ve dropped 5 points at home already
"I think we were maybe a bit short of concentration at key moments. Against Mallorca there were moments when the second goal would have finished the game off. I think we were actually playing for time a bit and then we found ourselves at 1-1. The problem was that we didn’t take our chances."

Does that mean the team were too relaxed?
"No, the thing is that when you dominate the game so much, there’s a tendency to think the goal must come, if not with this chance, then with the next one....It was like that before, we’d get two or three chances and we’d be two up. I just think we have to make a small change in the dynamic at the start of these games and that will be it."

The game against Mallorca saw the team have more shots than in all but one game so far this season – does that reinforce the idea that it’s the lack of firepower up front that’s leading to the dropped points?
"Yes, the lack of sharpness and tension, particularly from corners and free kicks. We have to improve that, because we have dropped 5 points and that can’t happen. We only dropped two all season with the draw against Villarreal last year and these five might be vital at the end of the season. Let’s hope not, but five points are a lot to drop at home."

Talking of goals and scoring them, how do you think Villa is settling in?
"He adapted straight away. We know him well from the Spanish team. He’s a very self effacing man, very much a football man who loves the game and we all know he can score goals by the hatful. He’s scoring and playing a big part in the team game, I reckon he’s a perfect signing for us, I’ve always said so and he’s proving me right."

Do you think the fans are being too impatient with Bojan?
"Yes, I do, because I think he’s doing well. Much more mature than before. He’s taking on an important role within the group. He’s always very professional and looks after himself and works hard –the goals will come. He was unlucky the other day, but so were the rest of the team, not just the strikers. It seems like all the responsibility is on Bojan’s shoulders and we all have to help him. He’s scored goals all his life and I’m sure he’ll continue to do so."

Thiago and Nolito came on at a difficult moment – how do see the youngsters who are coming through? Are they ready to take on responsibility?
"Yes, I’m sure they are. We didn’t win the other day, but they did a good job when they came on. Thiago is a player who can make a career here, just like Nolito, Fontàs, Muniesa… and we are lucky to have them. They too are lucky to have Guardiola who will give them their chances. Bringing them on when we were drawing the other day says a lot for Pep. He trusts the home grown players because he knows they don’t let him down."

You came up from the B team yourself. Does this crop of youngsters seem better prepared?
"Yes, I think they might be more competitive and mature, because they are in the second division and they won a playoff last year, also many of them are under 19 and under 21 internationals. I think they are well prepared for life in the first team."

It seems as if other teams show you more respect every season and that leads them to come into the game determined to close it down. Is that a problem?
"Yes, it is, because they don’t play the same way against us as they do against other teams. Rubin had six men in defence the other day. We know all about that though and it’s been going on for a while. What we have to do is to keep on playing our way – that’s what has brought us all so much success."

If your opponents are learning how to play you, it’s also true that the team are constantly reinventing themselves – midfielders dropping back when we attack and full backs becoming wingers.....does Guardiola demand a constant evolution?
"Yes, and it’s important to look for tactical variations. Pep’s crazy! He’s always watching videos of games and he has a great staff to help him. It’s fundamental to know how we should play, if we should get down the flanks, look for superiority in the middle..... that’s what we do a lot of work on in training. Pep is crazy about tactics, he knows so much and his enthusiasm is infectious."

The pitch is being changed at the Nou Camp at the moment, has the state of the pitch affected the team’s game?
"Yes, it has. The state of the pitch is vital for our attacking game, our first touch football and our pressing. When the grass is soft and damp, that’s important for our game. It wasn’t all that good these last few games and I think we had to change it. I guess it will be better now –I hope so, because it’s vital for us."

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“I’d like us to be the team with most titles”

Marc Guillén

Now in his thirteenth season at the club, Xavi Hernández knows the club as well as any and in this second part of his exclusive interview, he reveals what it takes to be a success at the Nou Camp.

“We feel this Barça as our own and we all want things to work out right”, he explains.

- A couple of years ago you said: “if you think you are irreplaceable in this Barça, you are dead”. Don’t you feel irreplaceable right now?

No, no, no. You could see that the other day. The way we play is always the same and it doesn’t need this or that player to make it work. Obviously, if Messi’s not there, we’ll miss him, as we would Iniesta, Villa or Puyol, because they are important players, but none of us is irreplaceable.

- You must have to work hard at that humility, now you’ve won so much.

I think it’s something you have inside of you. It’s also a lot to do with the family you come from. That’s the way we are here, self effacing and hard working people. Even though we’ve won so much, we still enjoy the training, I sometimes think it’s still like been in the youth teams – there are so many of us in the team who feel the club as if it’s our own and we all want it to work out well. We are very happy and that attitude of humility and hard work must never be lost.

- Do you think it’s maybe key to this team that there are 20 of you in the squad who are mad about football and play each game as if it’s your last?

That’s fundamental. We have to always have that way of doing things and that enthusiasm. We’ve got it and Pep demands it of us. It’s a luxury and a privilege to be able to go to work at Can Barça.

- It’s often said the manager has to be a psychologist to get the group to work, but do you think we also need players with the same skills?

Yes, it’s important for instance that the players who have been here longer help those who are just coming in. We are four captains in the squad, but everybody has a voice and nobody is really above anybody else. We believe in all the group members and we try and discuss things openly and let everybody have their say. When somebody is having difficulties, those of us who have been here longer try and help and stick together.

- Would you say this is the squad you feel most comfortable in?

- Yes, I feel very happy, There’s a good atmosphere and they are a great group of people. The truth is we work fantastically well together. Getting on is very important and here there’s a very good feeling between us all.

- Most of Guardiola’s assistants are Catalans and come from the same background –is that important?

- Pep is very intelligent and he knows how to surround himself with very competent people. The Doctor is the best Doctor for Barça, the kit man, the physio .... it’s all the same story You get the feeling there could be nobody better for the job and that’s fantastic for us.

- I’ve got to ask you about the World Player of the Year Award. Many people are tipping you, but you always say that Messi deserves it.

I’m not lying. There is one player who is a class above the rest. I would say I’ve never seen a player like him in my life. He’s immensely superior and as Pep says, he dominates all areas of the game. He’s fast, brave, strong – he’s got everything! I guess there’s maybe one like him every 50 years, so if we have to choose the best – it’s Messi. If we have to choose who’s had a good year and won titles....well, I don’t know, maybe one of the Spanish team deserve it. Messi is a class above the rest, but it would be good to see a Spanish player with at Barça style we’ve got. For me, it’s simply a privilege and a luxury to be even considered for the award.

- Have you never imagined yourself picking up the award?

- No, really, I haven’t. Of course It’d be great – it would be a tremendous personal recognition and I’d love it, but it’s not something you dream about - I dream of playing with Barça and winning Champions Leagues, League titles and so on.

- Are you aware that you have become a Barça myth and soon you’ll overtake Migueli in appearances?

- Yes, that’s one of my goals – I’d like to overtake Migueli, he’s a myth at the club. It’s exciting to think that I could be the player with most games played and that’s one of the objectives that I enjoy, like being part of a team who win more titles than any other - I’m very competitive and I like that kind of thing .

Barça TV viewer
- You are passionate about the game, but do you go back and watch games that you have played in?

- Yes, I watch BarcaTV. Sometimes I find it hard to sleep after a game and I watch the repeats of the match – I enjoy that, I’ve not got to the stage where I record a game I’m in, but I do watch the news and football programmes . I watch them all.

- Do you like what you see when you watch yourself in a game?

- Yes, but there are always things to improve. I’m very demanding of myself and I keep thinking –‘I could have done that differently’. But if I watch the way the team play, I have to admit we play well.

- Do you really watch Barça TV a lot –what do you think of it?

Yes, I watch it a lot and I think it’s really good. I watch the news and I like Recorda Mister I was watching the episode about Udo Lattek the other day and I really enjoyed it. The truth is you make some very interesting programmes.

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Tags: interviews, xavi the conductor
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