Yesterday saw Xavi Hernández retire from international football. The Spanish midfield has called time on an international career which has spanned fourteen years and seen him win the World Cup and back to back European Championships.
Making his international debut against Holland in November 2000, he went on to make 133 appearances for the national side and scored 13 goals. Widely regarded of one the greatest midfielders of his generation, he will leave a big hole in the Spanish team to fill.
To see how much of a linchpin he has been, you just need to look at the international tournaments he has played in. He played for Spain at the 2000 Olympics, 2002 FIFA World Cup, UEFA Euro 2004, 2006 FIFA World Cup, UEFA Euro 2008, 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, 2010 FIFA World Cup, UEFA Euro 2012, 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2014 FIFA World Cup. He was named player of the tournament in Euro 2008, leading Spain to their first international silverware since 1964.
Xavi’s retirement does not come as too much of a shock. The 34-year-old has been a faithful servant to Spain, but this summer saw the humbling of the national team and what many predicted as the end of an era. Their failure to even progress from the group stages in Brazil looks to be the last act of this great team before a rebuild and injection of young talent.
Speaking at a news conference in Barcelona, Xavi said: “I was going to retire after Euro 2012 but head coach Vicente Del Bosque persuaded me to stay on and go to Brazil, which was of course a huge disappointment for everyone and myself individually.
“After Euro 2012, it was generally understood I was going to be leaving after Brazil 2014. I hope Del Bosque stays as manager of Spain because I don’t think there is a better man for the job.
“I want to thank everyone involved in that team for the way they treated me and the respect, and I could not wish for a better time as an international.”
A very humble statement to signal an end to a fantastic international career, but the prolonged nature of his retirement will have provided Del Bosque with the time to have replacements lined up. The never ending Spanish production line will no doubt fill the gap. Atletico Madrid’s Koke and Real Madrid’s Isco are just two examples of the players available to fill the void.
The rumours remain over whether Xavi will leave Barcelona this summer, but his international retirement shows his commitment to club football and may hint at his desire to continue playing elite football within Europe. The answers to his club future will be revealed in the coming weeks.