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How to Play Like Xavi

Xavi is perhaps the best midfielder in the world today. He is the midfield maestro for his club team, Barcelona, and his national team, Spain. He is the bullfighter with the red cape, slowly bringing down the ferocious bull.

Xavi of Barcelona
Getty Images

Xavi lulls you to sleep with the tick tock of the ball moving from one side to the other before surging forward for the kill. He was the key to Spain’s first ever World Cup trophy in South Africa.

Rarely, if ever, does Xavi lose the ball. He completed 92.8% of his passes in the World Cup final versus the Netherlands. And with his club team, Barcelona, it’s no wonder they have an average possession percentage per game of close to 70%. Can you image playing a game where you only see the ball 30% of the time? It must drive opposing teams crazy.

But Xavi is not just an incredible passer of the ball. He also dribbles and turns out of pressure with a grace and ease. He’s an artist no question. How does he do it? If we only knew his secret we’d all be so blessed.

Xavi has been a Barcelona player all his life, and learned his craft at La Masia, Barcelona’s youth training system. Xavi plays simple one and two touch soccer. He always knows where is teammates are on the field. He passes the ball and moves. He really ever stops running - his fitness is top notch. If you watch him play he is constantly involved in the game, asking for the ball and switching the ball to open spaces on the pitch.

He's also an expert at using his body to shield the ball from defenders. It must be torture for other teams to pay against him since he’s always one step ahead of everyone else. If you close him down from one side he’ll just spin away from pressure and lay the ball off and get it back when he’s open again. His body is always hovering over and around the ball like it's a pot of gold.

Xavi’s Key Traits

Pick these up if you want to play like him

Keeps the ball moving. He doesn’t kill the play, in other words he keeps the flow of the game in motion. So when he gets the ball he’s always looking to go forward and extend the game. If he spins out of pressure, he looks to attack again.

Always has his head up and knows where everyone is on the field. Xavi is tremendous at those shot little give and goes with Iniesta and Messi, but he has an eye on the through ball and the killer pass.

His touch and control are second to none. Xavi makes a bad pass look good. He makes a high pass an advantage, flicking the ball over players. There’s no short cut to this touch and control, it’s time with the ball on your own.

Steady and calm on the ball. If you watch Xavi play you'll noticed he doesn't get ruffled or worried even if his team is down a goal. Instead, he keeps playing his game and pushing the ball forward, always moving, always seeking out the ball.

Excellent at using his body like to protect the ball. For a little man, Xavi has great strength and steels himself against tough tackles and the pushing and fighting for the ball that's part of La Liga.

High fitness level and durability. Xavi is tireless and runs the entire game. He also doesn't miss too many matches due to injury so he must take care of himself with a good diet and strength training routine.

The key to playing soccer like Xavi though is to give the ball and then get it back. He almost wants players to close him down fast and try to win the ball. Xavi almost invites and teases them into trying to dive in and win the ball. Once he feels the pressure he releases the ball to Messi, Iniesta, Busquets and moves into a better position.

Xavi is of course know for his ability to play short passes, but he also keeps his head up and will play those killer passes. Xavi will chip the ball to a forward running on goal or the ball in behind the defense when nobody expected it. His gift though is the way he disguises what he’s going to do. He keeps the ball close to him and can play the ball with either foot.

Xavi quote: “I’m a footballing romantic just like Johan Cruyff. We like football that is attractive, attacking and easy on the eye. When you win playing like this it’s twice as satisfying…. I’ve always played attacking football: my footballing ideals are very clear and well defined. I’ve grown up at Barcelona with that style and that’s the one I like. I think it’s good to win like that, by taking the initiative right from the off.”

And that is where we get to the secret behind playing like Xavi. His control and touch on the ball is perfect, and there’s no short cut to this than spending time with the ball. It doesn’t matter what kind of ball is played into Xavi, high, low, hard, fast, he’s able to adjust and make bad passes look good. If a defender closes him down, he can flick the ball over their head and start again.

If there is one play the epitomizes Xavi’s play it was the little pass he gave David Villa in their World Cup match versus Portugal. He made something difficult look ease. He knew where Villa was and relayed the ball on to him with the bottom of his foot like he was playing an afternoon match in the park. See the play below.

 


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