Xavi calls Messi ‘the best ever’

Lionel Messi failed to make it to the top three of Ballon d’Or for the first time since 2007, Xavi — his former Barcelona team-mate — says it’s unfair.

Xavi Hernandez and Lionel Messi celebrate in one of their outings for Barcelona, in 2012.   -  Getty Images

When Lionel Messi craved for supply in the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia, he must have remembered Xavi Hernandez. As the football fraternity argues Messi’s decrement in the Ballon d’Or vote chart, the Barcelona legend — who often fed the Argentine in the Catalan club — backed his former team-mate.

“He is the best player that I have seen ever. I would give him the Ballon d’Or every year,” said Xavi, on the sidelines of the Lusail Stadium design launch here on Saturday.

For the first time since 2007, Messi failed to make it to the top three in Ballon d’Or, finishing fifth. This time, World Cup runner-up Luka Modric (Croatia) ran into the decade-old dynasty of Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi by winning the honour.

“In my opinion, it is not fair. I am happy for Modric. Honestly, Messi is the best,” he added.

READ: Glimpse of Lusail Iconic Stadium, 2022 Qatar World Cup's grand theatre

Back in the day for Spain, Xavi used to be a sprint and pass engine in the midfield. The Spaniard had covered a distance of at least 15 km in the World Cup final in 2010 that Spain won (against Netherlands).

After announcing retirement from international football in 2014, Xavi signed a three-year contract with Al-Sadd SC in Qatar to prolong his club career. Next season, he is likely to take up a coaching role; great timing as the Gulf nation is set to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022.

Tips from the Spanish veteran could hold the youngsters in Qatar in good stead.

“I am very excited. The Supreme Committee is preparing well. I think they are ready. Qatar national team is complete. You can see how amazing the stadiums are. Everybody was surprised how Qatar is organising a World Cup, but the country is ready,” he said.

Xavi also expects Spain to come back hard in 2022.

(The writer is in Qatar on an invitation by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy)

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