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Time Xavi took his rightful place on the stage
09/07/2010  by Telegraph.co.uk
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World Cup 2010: Spain's Xavi should be recognised as a true modern great

We've all written crap headlines trying to be funny. It's a fine line. But the above effort, I've always thought, was a bit more than just another lame gag.

I don't know who wrote it (though I do feel sorry for Matt Lawton, the Mail's bylined football writer, whom casual observers will assume wrote it) but I doubt the guilty sub-editor has it pinned to his desk, next to his World Cup wall chart. Because if  it looked bad then, it looks significantly worse now.

Unfortunately, though, the headline, and its damning brackets, will continue to see the light of day. And that's because, technically at least, it is a great headline. It tells a complicated story in a pithy phrase; minimal words for maximum impact and all that.

But the story it tells, unfortunately, is very different from that it was intending to tell.

According to the brackets, Xavi is an impostor. A pitch invader, or a camera-phone wielding fan. He is a lucky puppy, apparently, to be up there among the bold and the beautiful.

The other four, according to the brackets, are indisputable greats. There's Liverpool's Fernando Torres: big, blond and fast. Cristiano Ronaldo: big, orange and fast. Lio Messi: small, but also brilliant and also very fast. And finally the very tall, very fast, Kaka. Mount Rushmore, ladies and gentlemen.

Hopefully, though, it's Xavi - small, slow and the scorer of very few goals - who'll be in the middle of the picture come gong season 2010. Because it's Xavi – Spain's cerebral dictator, Chameleon Eyes, who like Clark Kent, can see through steel (Ray Hudson, all of it) – who's at the centre of everything that is so wonderful about Spain.

Because it is Xavi, chiefly, that makes Spain seem unbeatable. Xavi, above all, realises that the other lot won't score many if they don't have the ball. Ever. No one in the Spain side wastes possession, but Xavi is a zealot (for once, the stats don't lie – 464 completed passes in this tournament alone is more than England have managed in my adult lifetime).

Keeping the ball, of course, hardly constitutes a tactical revolution, but the way Xavi puts football's oldest principle into practice feels somehow revolutionary. His appreciation of space, his 360-degree awareness, his mastery of measurements,  they are almost unique in today's game.

It doesn't look good on YouTube, or in Nike adverts, but Xavi's method is proving to be mightily effective tool with which to win football matches. Indeed, should Spain win on Sunday, Xavi will have lifted two Spanish titles, the Champions League, the Club World Cup, the European Championships, and the World Cup, all in the space of two years.

Not bad for the bloke in the brackets.

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