THERE will never be another player like Xavi and Barcelona will have to adapt accordingly now he is leaving, coach Luis Enrique said after the midfielder’s final La Liga game for the club on Saturday.
Xavi (35) announced this week he was joining Qatari side Al Sadd after 17 seasons in Barca’s first team and 23 trophies, bringing to an end more than two decades with the club he joined as an 11-year-old in 1991.
After Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Deportivo La Coruna, captain Xavi hoisted aloft the La Liga trophy that Barca secured last weekend, their fifth in seven years and his eighth.
He fought back tears as he thanked fans packed inside the giant Nou Camp arena for making him “the happiest man in the world”.
Considered one of the greatest midfielders to have played the game, Xavi effortlessly controlled play in the central areas and was at the heart of a glorious run for Barca and Spain over the past eight years.
He won three Champions League crowns with the Catalan giants and helped Spain clinch back-to-back European Championships in 2008 and 2012 and their debut World Cup in 2010.
Saturday’s game was his 765th appearance for Barca in official competition, a club record.
“There is no replacement for Xavi,” Luis Enrique said.
“You cannot replace unique players,” added the former Barca and Spain midfielder.
“I, as a coach, and those who come after me will have to adapt to different types of player.
“Xavi is a football genius and he is the best midfielder in the history of the game.”
Xavi can still win another two trophies with treble-chasing Barca before he departs.
They play Athletic Bilbao in the King’s Cup final at the Nou Camp next Saturday and take on Juventus in the Champions League final in Berlin a week later.
“We want this treble, knowing how tough it is, they are going to make it hard for us,” Xavi told reporters.
“On a personal level I want to finish by lifting the Cup and the Champions League,” he added.
“Obviously today when I saw my wife, my parents, my family and friends I choked up. And hearing people chanting my name was incredible.”