Xavi may have gone to establish himself as one of Barcelona‘s all-time greats, but there was a time when the Catalan giants were not particularly optimistic over the future of their young midfielder.
The 41-year-old, who has reportedly agreed to replace Ronald Koeman in the Nou Camp dugout after the Dutchman was sacked on Thursday, established himself as one of the best midfielders in the history of the game over 17 trophy-laden seasons with Barcelona.
Xavi made 767 appearances in all competitions for Barcelona, scoring 85 goals and winning 25 major trophies, including four Champions Leagues and eight LaLiga titles.
Xavi retired as one of the all-time Barcelona greats after winning 25 trophies in 17 seasons
However, a scouting report on 14-year-old Xavi did not foresee such a glittering career.
In fact, Barcelona scouts described the then-teenager as ‘average’ in a several aspects of his game, including speed, balance and strength.
The report, which is featured in Cristian Martin’s book ‘La Masia: Developing people beyond sport‘ on Barcelona’s fabled academy, has surfaced on the pages of popular Spanish sports newspaper Marca and makes for interesting reading.
Barcelona scouts were particularly unimpressed with Xavi’s physical attributes, describing him as a player who ‘runs on his heels, his movements are slow and he has trouble picking up speed.’
The report card on 14-year-old Xavi describes him as ‘average’ in several aspects of the game
Xavi was deemed to be severely lacking in athleticism and speed by Barcelona’s scouts
His balance and flexibility were also deemed average, with the scouts suggesting the latter in particular needed ‘a lot of work’.
Similarly, while Xavi’s coordination was good, ‘his movements are correct, but lack speed’ and he ‘has to improve his agility and speed of movement’.
Overall, there were six different aspects of the game Xavi was deemed to be ‘average’ at.
The 2010 World Cup winner, however, was judged to have good fitness – ‘he has everything a good midfielder should – and good muscle endurance.
Alongside Andres Iniesta (right) and Leo Messi, Xavi was part of a dominant Barcelona team
The midfielder won four Champions League crowns with the Blaugrana in 17 seasons
He also won LaLiga eight times, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2008 and Euro 2012 with Spain
While the report may seem overly negative in some aspects, it was also particularly prescient as the Barcelona maestro never made of physicality and speed his calling card, dictating games with his passing instead.
In that regard, the scouts were far more impressed with what they saw from the 14-year-old.
Xavi, the report states, displayed excellent control and very good passing and ball control.
‘He offsets his lack of speed in movement with exceptional ball control […] He should improve with his left foot, but this is his great strength on the pitch […] He has a good sense of protecting the ball, he almost never loses it.’
The 41-year-old is expected to replace Ronald Koeman as Barcelona manager this week
The report was even more glowing when it came to Xavi’s ‘excellent’ positioning, which was ‘undoubtedly his best quality. He is always where he should be and always offers support and an option for team-mates.’
The scouts also drew parallel between Xavi and Pep Guardiola, whom he replaced as Barcelona’s main playmaker after the latter suffered a serious injury in the 1999-2000 season.
Specifically they deemed his shooting ‘average’ but noted ‘he should improve this for when he gets forward in attack, like Guardiola.’
It is fair to say the Spaniard may have exceeded expectations.