World Soccer: Congratulations on winning World Soccer’s Player of the Year award.
Xavi: Thank you.
It’s been quite a year with the World Cup and the Spanish league title, plus the 5-0 win over Real Madrid. Is this recognition at last? A few years ago, few people talked about you as the best player in the world. There was even that infamous headline in one English newspaper when you were in the top five for the FIFA World Player award: “The best players in the world (and Xavi).”
It’s a pity. Not for me, but because of what it means. People have to focus a bit more on how things are done, not just on the final result. The result matters, of course, but people aren’t looking at how a player plays – whether that’s me or anyone else.
They’re looking at who wins. It’s all about the result. I think that’s a pity because football is more than that. People have discovered me since Euro 2008, but I’ve been playing the same way for years.
But you have improved, right?
In self-confidence. By winning, you take a weight off your shoulders, you convince yourself that you’re doing things right. Before, it was a bit “aargh!” Now that we have won we have the tranquillity that allows us to enjoy our football, both with Spain and Barcelona. Winning has also served to make people re-evaluate our style, my style. It’s not just about recognition, it’s more than that. Honestly, I am very happy because, from an egotistical point of view, six years ago I was extinct as a player; footballers like me were in danger of dying out.
That’s the point isn’t it? This award is about more than just 2010, it is about you representing a type of game that, now at least, is seen as a winning approach. It is about three years in which you have won the European Championship, the European Cup,
the World Cup…
A few years ago, we weren’t winning. When a team starts winning you notice it. When a tennis player wins you look at him and ask why he wins. You don’t look at him before that and ask what it is he has got [going for him]. The process only gets examined via the result. In football, sadly, no one looks at, for example, how is this [team/player] playing. No, they look at the results.
I understand that but I have a different perspective. Manchester United can lose but I will still like them. If they don’t win, so what? I might like the way they play. The same for Liverpool or Bayern or Milan.
Could you have succeeded in England?
In the end, you adapt. Look at Xabi Alonso, he went to Liverpool and adapted. Mikel Arteta to Everton. Any good footballer, with talent, ends up adapting.
“Ah, but can you do it on a cold night in Stoke?” As if it’s never cold against Numancia…
Yeah, exactly. Seriously, though, it’s hard to leave Barcelona and I feel very much part of the club.
Does English football attract you?
Yes, I wouldn’t have liked Italian football but I would have liked England. If there was an English team I liked it was Manchester United above all. English football is wonderful. I have never seen anything like it.
We won 3-1 at Liverpool once and we were applauded off the pitch. In Spain that’s starting to happen a little more now. Young fans who are becoming more committed to their clubs are making more noise: look at Espanyol, Athletic, Sevilla – there’s something there. But it’s England that most stands out.
Spanish players and coaches seem to really enjoy it in England…
There is not the same level of patience in Spain as there is in England. And those that coach in England appreciate that and are grateful for it. I think it should always be like that. Coaches need a couple of years. Or three, or more.
And the players?
They think it’s brilliant. They all speak highly of it. In England football is more noble; there’s less cheating. I would have loved it. Just going onto the pitch for United the fans respect you. In England the profession is respected. Here, the fans think you’re shameless, you make a fortune and you don’t care.
Playing in England has also given a chance and the right conditions for Spanish players to develop. In England, a player who is a 7/10 becomes a 9/10. Fernando Torres is a superstar now. And look at Arteta at Everton.