Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
In our latest post on Spanish soccer, Iain Rogers in Madrid muses on the brilliance of the peerless Xavi and Real Madrid’s decision to hand more power to coach Jose Mourinho at the expense of sacked director general Jorge Valdano.
Xavi’s Wembley tears turn to triumph
Lionel Messi rightly grabbed most of the headlines for his latest European masterclass in Barcelona’s 3-1 Champions League final humbling of Manchester United on Saturday.
However, the Argentine World Player of the Year’s superbly-struck goal, his 53rd of the season in all competitions, and his all-round brilliance distracted attention from the man who has been at the heart of the phenomenal success achieved by Barca and Spain in recent years: Xavi.
Regularly nailing more than 100 passes per game, with a completion rate in excess of 90 percent, the 31-year-old has perfected the playmaker’s art.
Just another night of footballing action and another trophy for the all-conquering Barcelona, who on Wednesday clinched their third successive La Liga title despite a laboured 1-1 draw away to Levante.
Manchester United will be hoping a similarly weary Barcelona turn up at Wembley for the Champions League final on May 28, hopefully having themselves recently won their top domestic honour, the Premier League.
Like many of Europe’s biggest clubs, Barcelona find themselves at a crucial point of the season, with their hopes in two of the three competitions they are contesting in the balance.
Worryingly for fans, Pep Guardiola’s side have been hit by a rash of niggling injuries to key players at a highly inconvenient moment.
Scrunching up the eyes a bit, and using just a touch of imagination, watching Jack Wilshere on the ball for England against Denmark was almost like watching Xavi. It was quite a shock, in fact, to see a player in an England shirt pause, look up and think before picking out a team mate with a precise, considered pass.
Comparing Wilshere to the peerless Barcelona midfielder Xavi will be stretching it for some. I was pretty surprised, I must say, to read match reports on Thursday suggesting Wilshere had been a bit disappointing.
It’s strange that when 2009 winner Lionel Messi was awarded the combined FIFA Ballon d’Or award on Monday there was shock in the Zurich auditorium and around the globe.
He is clearly the best player in the world but most fans and pundits had expected one of Barcelona team mates and Spain World Cup winners Andres Iniesta or Xavi to take the prize.
England performed well below expectation at the World Cup in South Africa and judging by the FIFA Ballon d’Or list announced on Tuesday the stock of the Premier League is not at its highest either.
Just three players from the league that likes to call itself the best in the world are on the list and it would be a huge surprise if any of them made it into the top three:
Boy, the Champions League is back with a bang. How much juicier can you get than holders Barcelona at Inter Milan in their first game?
If the Spanish champions against their Italian counterparts wasn’t enough, we’ve got the added spice of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Samuel Eto’o playing against their former clubs at the first possible opportunity following their extraordinary close-season swap deal.
Barcelona deposed Manchester United as European champions with an outstanding 2-0 victory in the Champions League final at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday.
Samuel Eto’o struck the opener after 10 minutes when he cut in from the right past Nemanja Vidic with surprising ease and his low shot beat United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar at his near post. Xavi cracked a free kick against a United post at the start of the second half before Lionel Messi sealed the win after 70 minutes when he scored with a beautifully timed header from Xavi’s cross.
This week we had the nominations for FIFA world player of the year, discovered the winner of the FIFPro world player of the year and mulled the contenders for the Ballon d’Or.
Exactly how many gongs do we need? In the recent past the situation was a bit clearer.
The shortlist for the Ballon d’Or got shorter this year, but there was still room for seven members of the Spain squad that restored a bit of faith in football at Euro 2008.
A lot of news reports focused on the big-named absentees, including Thierry Henry, Fabio Cannavaro and Ronaldinho, but I don’t suppose too many people would argue for their inclusion after disappointing seasons.