Barcelona players hail Xavi after 700th appearance

Fri Jan 17, 2014 2:00pm EST
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BARCELONA (Reuters) - Lionel Messi and some of his Barcelona colleagues paid warm tribute to team mate Xavi on Friday after he extended his appearances record to 700 in the midweek King's Cup match at Getafe.

Spain playmaker Xavi, who will be 34 later this month, joined Barca's academy in 1991 at the age of 11 and made his debut for the first team under Dutch coach Louis van Gaal in August 1998.

He has since won 22 trophies in 16 seasons including three Champions Leagues and seven La Liga titles.

A consummate ball player, joint captain Xavi is the fulcrum of the team and fellow skipper Carles Puyol said there was no reason why the veteran midfielder could not reach 1,000 appearances for the club.

"He is a unique player who makes things very easy," said Argentina forward Messi on the club website ( "He makes the whole team play.

"It's crazy the number of matches he has played and hopefully there will be many more."

Xavi's fellow midfielder and Spain colleague Andres Iniesta, another academy graduate who has been at the heart of Barca's success in recent years, called his team mate "a leader, a reference point".

"On a footballing level he is extraordinary because he is always ahead of the play," said Iniesta.

Sergio Busquets said Xavi, who has also scored 82 goals for the club, was the player he and the other academy players had looked up to when they were learning their trade.   Continued...

Barcelona's Xavi Hernandez runs with the ball during their Champions League soccer match against Celtic at Celtic Park in Glasgow, October 1, 2013. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne