Cape Town - Andres Iniesta has largely assumed Xavi's role this term, although with
him having turned 31 this month Barcelona face a fiendishly tough task in finding
an effective long-term replacement for the playmaking role.
Xavi on Thursday called time on his 17 season long career at the Nou Camp. Xavi, 35, who signed up with Barca's academy in 1991 at the age of 11 and has won 23 trophies during 17 seasons in the first team, made the announcement at a news conference.
Candidates Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcantara have both moved on,
while Ivan Rakitic, who joined from Sevilla last year, has potential but still
much to prove.
Iniesta paid tribute this week to Xavi, with whom has he has won
pretty much everything there is to win in soccer.
"I have run out of words of praise, I can't find a compliment
that does justice to what he represents, what he means as a person and a
player," Iniesta said on Barca's website (www.fcbarcelona.es).
"He is a unique, once in a lifetime player who has been
fundamental in almost everything good at his club and with the national team.
"For me it has been... a true pleasure and honour to have
played my whole career by his side."