By 90Min
March 20, 2018

Ex-Barcelona midfielder Xavi may have left the club as a legend in 2015 as a winner of 17 major trophies in 17 years - including four Champions League titles, but the Camp Nou icon has recalled it wasn't easy as few initially believed he could play in the same team as Andres Iniesta.


Xavi had broken through from the junior ranks to the first-team by 1998. He was later famously told by club captain Pep Guardiola that while he had the ability to retire the skipper, the new kid Iniesta was so good he would eventually retire them all.

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"People used to tell me that I was the cancer of Barça, that I did not have the ability to play for this club. That with me, we would never win the Champions League," Xavi explained in a lengthy interview with SoFoot.com.

"They said that Iniesta and I were incompatible," he added.

Iniesta was handed his first-team debut for Barça in 2002 by manager Louis van Gaal, the same coach who had blooded Xavi during an earlier spell in charge. For a while it looked like it would have to be one or the other, but all that changed when Frank Rijkaard arrived in Catalunya.

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Things also clicked on the international stage under the leadership of the late Luis Aragones.

"Iniesta and Xavi together on the ground? It was 'impossible' until the arrival of Rijkaard and Aragones," Xavi recalled. "It was them who made us play together for the first time. They believed in us and we made them proud. Fortunately we won titles. Without that, we'd have been killed. It's the football business."

(You may also be interested in 'Lionel Messi Reveals the Change to His Game That Has Helped Barcelona Thrive This Season')

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Although Xavi played no part in the final and had suffered with injuries earlier in the season, Barça won the Champions League in 2005/06 and both player were crucial in the years that followed, especially as the likes of Mark van Bommel, Deco and Edmilson moved on.

On the international stage, Xavi and Iniesta were key members of Aragones' Spanish side that broke the country's 44-year drought to win Euro 2008. Further club success followed when Pep Guardiola took up Rijkaard's mantle at Barça and put even greater focus on home-grown players, while Vicente del Bosque added a World Cup and Euro 2012 to Aragones' legacy.

Between 2009 and 2012, both players were Ballon d'Or finalists on five occasions between them, with Iniesta finishing second and Xavi finishing third in 2010.

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"You should bear in mind that once you become a professional, you will get exposed," Xavi explained, but it was the doubters who were wrong.

"What's funny about football is that everyone thinks they understand it. There are many people who think they know football, but all they do is criticise and criticise. That's why it is essential to have clear ideas."

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