Xavi to NYCFC is Still a Strong Possibility

Despite Xavi’s snub in the press, there are many reasons to believe he may be one of NYCFC’s first designated players
by Nick Chavez   |   Thursday, January 30, 2014

Blue City – column on New York City FC (NYCFC) & the NYC area soccer scene.

Earlier this month, the rumor mill had been churning with stories of the potential arrival of Spain and FC Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez to eventually ply his trade in the New York City area, though reports have varied as to whether it would be with New York City FC or Red Bull New York.

Xavi himself helped spark this speculation by saying, “It’s difficult to end your career here. I don’t know if I’ll end it in Barça. I’d like to because I feel good physically, better than in the last two seasons. But, I don’t know what will happen.”

He continued, “The United States is a country I like. It would be a nice alternative if it (leaving Barcelona) were to happen.”

Things have decidedly cooled down now as the Spanish press more recently reported that Xavi has said, “Not Qatar, nor New York, I wish to end my career here (in Barcelona).”

But, if history has taught us anything, things don’t always turn out as players claim they want to in the press.

It should also be noted that “ending my career” in European football-speak often does not translate to literally quitting playing professional football altogether. Frequently players are referring to ending their career in a top European league, or with the club of their heart and prime of their career, rather than quitting altogether. Even if their legs are a little slower, their star-power can attract lucrative playing contracts and bring in fans in “growing leagues”, such as Major League Soccer.

Considering that, one shouldn’t be fooled into assuming we’ve heard the last of the Xavi to MLS story, regardless of what Xavi, FC Barcelona or MLS officials say. Not just yet. And what a coup he would be for any MLS club.

When looking at Xavi’s long list of titles won, the indispensable role he played for his club and national team, and the near-perfection in which he has carried out his job for so many seasons, the current FC Barcelona and Spain National Team legend must be considered one of the best players ever, and very arguably the best ever to play in his position as a center midfield, possession-owning maestro.

Xavi is about as important as anyone in Spain earning its first-ever World Cup crown in 2010, and equally as influential in Spain winning back-to-back Euro Cups in 2008 and 2012. It is also no coincidence that he has presided in the same role during FC Barcelona’s “golden era”, winning 3 UEFA Champions League Titles, 7 Spanish League Titles, 2 Copas Del Rey, and 2 FIFA Club World Cups with the Blaugrana.

Xavi (along with Andres Iniesta) is a player whose achievements have frequently been unfairly overshadowed by the fancier, higher-scoring performances of Lionel Messi in the global football media, though, it is frequently ignored that Xavi and Iniesta won everything at the club level with Messi, and also conquered everything at the international level without him. Messi, on the other hand, has won nothing without their help at the senior level in Argentina, which rightly begs the question, what was more influential in Barcelona’s success: the individual brilliance of Messi, or the near immaculate performances in passing and possession of Xavi and Iniesta?

A discussion for another time, perhaps, but there is a very real possibility that one of the all-time greats will be playing in 1 of the 2 MLS clubs representing New York City. But which club will he choose, if any? Some have speculated that it may be Red Bull New York, due in part to Henry being a former teammate of Xavi at Barcelona and his possible persuading of Spain’s midfield maestro to leave the Spanish giants and join him with the Supporters’ Shield Champions in a growing league.

While certainly possible, if there is any truth to Xavi considering playing for a New York City club in Major League Soccer, it seems far more likely that he would be strongly leaning towards New York City FC. The fact that the CEO of NYCFC, Ferran Soriano, and Manchester City’s Director of Football (who is also heavily involved with NYCFC’s football operations and development), Txiki Begiristain, played such important roles in helping build and shepherd FC Barcelona’s best team ever cannot be ignored, nor should one underestimate the relationship and history they have with one Xavi Hernandez.

Begiristain and Soriano both spoke glowingly at the NYCFC press conference for NYCFC manager Jason Kreis about how their new club will be playing attractive, high-pressure, attacking football. They said New York City FC will be strong in possession, entertaining the many soccer fans that live in the NYC area, and attracting many more through this brilliant brand of football.

Considering the sources and how they described the way NYCFC aims to play, it seems apparent that the ideal choice to be the brain and conductor of this team would be none other than Xavi, who has been the cerebral force and purveyor of this type of football for much of his illustrious career with Spain and FC Barcelona.

It is likely that many aging, globally-recognized stars will make themselves available to MLS clubs after the upcoming World Cup in Brazil, and Xavi may very well be amongst them, having just turned 34 years old and approaching what may be an end of a cycle at FC Barcelona, with younger players like Fabregas looking to take over, and the club perhaps looking to build for the future.

Also, with the recent scandal at FC Barcelona with the shady details of the Neymar transfer and how that might unsettle the Blaugrana, it seems a no-brainer that he will be eventually sounded out by New York City FC. If so, they will hope that he can bring the magic that won him so many trophies and accolades for Spain and FC Barcelona, and create this culture of attacking, possession football in New York City, as the club has promised to the City and its future supporters.

If this is the case, Red Bull New York will be at a disadvantage in its efforts to sign him. Although they have Henry, who Xavi has said recently in the press that he hasn’t talked to him at all about moving to MLS, or that he even has his number, it should be expected that his ties are closer and deeper with Begiristain and Soriano, his fellow countrymen who have FC Barcelona in their DNA.

Perhaps just as importantly, in a battle to sign a designated player, RBNY should be out of their financial league against the massive wealth commanded by New York City FC’s ownership group. If NYCFC want their man, they can potentially pay any transfer fee, and any salary. Furthermore, one would expect FC Barcelona to be friendlier in negotiations with their old friends Soriano and Begiristain, who were so instrumental in helping usher, by far, the most successful era in FC Barcelona’s history.

Finally, the opportunity to be a part of the historic beginning of the only football club to play its home matches in New York City, for what will be a very important team in the United States and potentially globally, may very well also draw the always ambitious Xavi to NYCFC.

And even if Xavi does not join NYCFC in its first or second season, that does not rule out him eventually making the move to MLS when he feels his time is truly done at his boyhood club. It’s clear he still has the drive to compete. But whether he will still be able to provide enough at that age is another question.

More will be clear about Xavi’s future plans after the World Cup. In the meantime, one shouldn’t believe everything that’s said in the press rooms. Things can change in a New York minute. 

Nick CHAVEZ

Nationality:
USA
College:
SCSU
Club Domestic:
NYCFC
Club Foreign:
Real Madrid CF
Spent most of 2012 in Madrid, Spain and his father's native Costa Rica in what was a pilgrimage of fútbol and a mission to learn Spanish. Now, this proud American Outlaw is home in the CT/NYC area to report on New York City FC and promote MLS/US Soccer.
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