BARÇA’S GREATEST MIDFIELDER BOWS OUT AFTER 17 YEARS, GOOD NEWS IN GALICIA AND REAL MADRID DISMISS CARLO ANCELOTTI
The Spanish Week in Review
Tiki-taka legend Xavi Hernandez lifted the La Liga trophy and waved goodbye to the Camp Nou on Saturday.
Championship celebrations mixed with melancholic tributes to a man who had spent 17 years a player for the blaugrana and 24 years in total on their books. It was indeed the end of an era for probably the club’s greatest ever midfielder.
93,000 fans transformed the Camp Nou into a the biggest farewell imaginable, a sea of blue and maroon confetti and gigantic Xavi and ‘Campions’ banners.
All of Luis Enrique’s Lipoqq players donned number six shirts at the end to salute their illustrious colleague’s final league game and gave him the bumps, although there are still the finals of the Copa del Rey (in Barcelona) and the Champions League to play, as Xavi reminded them in his swansong address.
Despite telling the fans they had made him “the happiest person in the world”, Xavi himself seemed subdued if not a little sad as he shed a tear or two.. In truth he has not looked happy this season with his substitute cameos, following on from his bitter farewell to la selección in Brazil last summer.
The magic triangle of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta is now history, replaced by the attacking trident of Messi, Neymar and Suarez. He is no longer the fulcrum of the team, his buzzing around the middle replaced by the box-to-box Ivan Rakitic. Aged 35 it seems the right time to call it a day for Barça.
Xavi has won more trophies than any Spanish footballer, bagging a full set of La Liga, Copa del Rey, Champions League, World Club Cup, European Championship and World Cup.
505 appearances and 58 goals for Barça, 133 caps and 12 goals for Spain, Xavi never won the Ballon D’Or / FIFA World Player of the Year but did pick up World Soccer’s Player of the Year in 2010 and was player of the tournament at Euro 2008.
* Amid all the celebration of Barcelona’s title triumph, Luis Enrique’s role was again underplayed by the media. Despite forging a winning side which recently has looked near unbeatable, the Asturian’s lack of aura compared to Pep Guardiola entails a relative lack of admiration. If Enrique wins the treble, he surely must be accorded more respect than he has garnered hitherto.
* The Xavi Adéu masked what was a near-miraculous escape from relegation for Deportivo La Coruña, who came away with an unlikely 2:2 draw to save themselves and send Eibar down instead.
With nothing but pride to play for and allowing reserves Douglas, Masip and Sergi Roberto a run-out as well as Thomas Vermaelen his debut, Barcelona had ambled into a 2-0 lead after an hour thanks to a Lionel Messi brace.
With Eibar racing into a 3-0 lead at home to Cordoba after 33 minutes, the Galicians looked dead certs for the Liga Adelante.
But Lucas Perez raised hopes with a 67th minute strike and five minutes later Salomou thumped in a loose ball to make survival reality again.
At the final whistle, La Coruña’s staff poured onto the pitch for five minutes of merited ecstasy before the Xavi ‘despedida’ (farewell) took flight.
Deportivo and Granada both escape the drop having finished on equal points to Eibar but with a better head-to-head record. Joining Cordoba and Eibar in the second division are Almeria, who ended their season losing 3-2 at home to Valencia.
Atletico Madrid drew 0-0 at Granada to confirm third place. Valencia and Sevilla both won to finish 4th and 5th respectively.
Spain has an arsenal of teams in next year’s European competitions:
Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid go into the Champions League group stages, with Valencia starting in the qualifying round and Sevilla joining them if they win the Europa League final this week. Five Spanish clubs in the Champions League next season looks distinctly possible.
As it stands, Sevilla will join Athletic Bilbao and Villareal in the Europa League.
Sevilla travel to Warsaw for the Europa League final on Wednesday against Dnipro of Ukraine.
Real Madrid’s season ended in bizarre fashion as they came back from 2-1 and then 3-2 down at home to Getafe to win 7-3. As the visitors took the lead, Carlo Ancelotti and Iker Casillas were once more subjected to some booing, before a second-half blitz made the scoreline look like a comfy win.
Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed another hat-trick to win the Pichichi trophy, Real’s only silverware this season. James Rodriguez, Chicharito, Jese and Marcelo added the others. Norwegian 16 year-old Martin Odegaard finally made his debut, replacing Ronaldo for the last half hour.
Gareth Bale was not in the 16, leading to more speculation about his future. His omission was officially down to injury but also coincided with the visit to Madrid of his agent Jonathan Barnett, who had complained about him not getting the ball enough.
Ancelotti’s future was the major talking point post-match with everyone wondering if he would sink or swim. In midweek, news emerged from Germany that Jurgen Klopp had been offered the Real job, but few in Spain took it at face value.