Some elite footballers take a while to show their class, but Barcelona legend Xavi clearly doesn’t fall into that category.
The World Cup winner and multiple Champions League victor was one of the best of his generation, and it turns out he had the goods long before he even turned pro.
Given his on-pitch intelligence and passion for football, absolutely no one has been surprised to see him in the Camp Nou dugout today – his managerial career has been signposted for literally decades.
As part of Cristian Martin’s book ‘La Masia: Developing people beyond sport’, a detailed scouting report on a 14-year-old Xavi was published in full. It’s probably a better write-up than a fair few senior players would ever get, and we’ve tried to break it down piece by piece.
“He runs on his heels, his movements are slow and he has trouble picking up speed.”
An easy solution, here. Just make sure you’re always in the right space to begin with – that way running becomes less of a concern.
The Xavi of 2009-11 would never be described as “average” in any regard. Proof that there’s always some room for improvement.
“Good. His movements are correct but lack speed.”
Is this the first time ‘the first yard is in his head’ has been applied to a teenager?
🗣️Leo Messi: “He is the best player in the history of Spanish football.”
🅰️ Assist in 2009 final 👌
🅰️ Assist in 2011 final 👏
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) January 25, 2019
“Average. He needs a lot of work in this regard.”
*Neville Southall voice*: Well done, he’s 14.
“Good, without it being his forte. He has the resources in his game to take advantage of any situation.”
We’d love to know which players got top marks for skill around the same time, and what they’re doing now.
“Good. He has everything a good midfielder should.”
We’re starting to think a good scouting department is pretty useful.
We’ll take your word for it.
“Average. He has to improve his agility and speed of movement.”
Has to. You hear that, Xavi. You’ll never get anywhere without improving that part of your game.
He’s no Mario Rosas, is he?
READ: The mystery of Mario Rosas, the man Xavi called ‘a mix of Laudrup and Messi’
“Excellent. He offsets his lack of speed in movement with exceptional ball control.”
Now we’re talking. Why didn’t we get to this part earlier? Oh, right, because there are demarcated sections for each facet of a player’s ability.
“Very good. He should improve with his left foot, but this is his great strength on the pitch.”
This sounds a lot like the Xavi we grew to love on the pitch. Probably fair to say he improved with his left foot as his career went on, too.
“Good. He is almost never forced into this action.”
Can you imagine if coaches put too much stock in this and stuck Xavi out on the wing for years? To be fair, he’d probably have nailed it there too. He’s just that good.
“Acceptable. He should improve this for when he gets forward in attack, like Guardiola.”
Who could have possibly envisaged this 14-year-old playing his best football under Guardiola as an adult? Oh, right, this exact scouting report.
“Very good. He has a good sense of protecting the ball, he almost never loses it.”
Imagine how tiny Xavi would have been as a teenager. Ball retention must look even better with that in mind.
“Good. Without being his best asset, his technical level is impressive.”
We suppose Barcelona would eventually have better dribblers to carry that burden, and we don’t just mean Adama Traore.
“Excellent. It is undoubtedly his best quality. He is always where he should be and always offers support and an option for team-mates.”
As it once was, as it will ever be.
“Average. His eminently technical style sometimes makes this aspect difficult to judge.”
If you never have to win the ball back…
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