"The brain" Xavi set for World Cup exam

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MADRID, May 25 – Regarded as the conductor of the orchestra for club and country, midfielder Xavi Hernandez is often an unsung hero for Barcelona and Spain.His importance can not be underestimated with his simple, yet highly effective, passing crucial to make Spain tick and he will have to be at his best if the European champions are to go all the way at the 2010 World Cup finals.

Labelled ‘el celebro’ or ‘the brain’ in the Spanish media, Xavi, now 30, has the ability to turn quickly to evade opponents and maintain possession whilst matching that skill with brilliant distribution of the ball, including incisive killer passes, and it often seems as if he has all the time in the world to pick his pass.

Scoring goals is not his forte and he has a paltry eight goals from 84 caps for Spain which maybe take him out of the limelight.

But his success with Barcelona and Spain have elevated his status and Xavi was voted player of the tournament following Spain’s Euro 2008 victory in Austria and Switzerland.

"Maybe some people don’t give him (Xavi) all the credit he deserves. Maybe you (the media) have ignored him, but we haven’t," said Barcelona and Spain team-mate Carles Puyol. "We know he’s absolutely fundamental; we know that he’s among the best in the world and I think everyone recognises that."

At 30 Xavi is one of the senior members of Spain’s youthful side having made his international debut back in November 2000 and took part in the 2006 World Cup finals despite a knee ligament injury making him a doubt for the Germany showpiece.

A Catalan born and bred, Xavi started in Barcelona’s renowned ‘cantera’ or youth system as a promising youngster and worked his way up to the first team making his league debut in August 1998 under Dutch coach Louis van Gaal.

He became an ever present, playing alongside his current Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola in midfield, and after 12 years in the starting line-up Xavi has clocked up over 500 club appearances and is second in the all-time appearance list.

Xavi has lifted five La Liga titles (1999, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010) and two Champions League crowns (2006, 2009) as well as the World Club Championship and wrote himself into the history books in 2009 when he was part of Barcelona’s unique treble when they became the first Spanish side to lift La Liga, the Champions League and the Kings Cup.

The Euro 2008 success means the World Cup is the only medal missing from Xavi’s impressive collection but the midfielder continues to remain as down-to-earth preferring to see the team as the star.

"I need team-mates, people to combine with," Xavi explained. "Without team-mates football has no meaning. I am no-one if they don’t make themselves available."

Xavi rarely gets injured although he has played through the pain barrier for Barcelona this season carrying a niggling calf injury in the title run-in as Barcelona pipped Real to the Spanish crown.

The midfielder insisted that he was never putting the World Cup in jeopardy and he is expected to be fully fit for Spain’s Group H opener against Switzerland on June 16.

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