BARCELONA | XAVI HERNÁNDEZ
Xavi on Ballon d'Or: "I'd vote for Messi, Ribery and Cristiano"
The midfielder outlined his reasoning for choosing Messi for football's most prestigious individual prize, but admitted: "There's a debate to be had."
Xavi Hernández spoke about goings on at Barcelona and his future with the Spain team in an interview with 'Sport'.
Ballon d'Or: "If we ask ourselves who the best player in the world is, then it has to be Messi, there's no question about that. But if we ask who has been the best player in 2013, then I admit there is more of a debate to be had. The fact Messi has won it four years in a row could end up damaging him when it comes to voting. I would always give it to Messi, because he is the player that wins matches by himself, although you have to recognise that Ribèry and Cristiano have reached stratospheric heights in terms of goals and assists. Ribèry won everything, and Cristiano has notched up an incredible amount of goals. If I were captain of Spain and had a vote, I'd vote for Messi first, then Ribèry, and then Cristiano. Robben would also be worthy of my vote."
Barça: "We set the bar so high. In the last few years our level was 10/10 now it's about 8 or 7.5. We are playing good football and enjoying ourselves out on the pitch, but not every minute, perhaps we are enjoying half the game or not suffering for 20 or 30 minutes because our opponents aren't putting pressure on us. That's what we have to improve. It seems as if there is alarm, but things are good for us at the moment. We've had extraordinary results, it's almost impossible to imrpove on, we are leaders in every area."
Differences between Tata, Tito and Guardiola: "I don't like to compare. If I say something good about Tata, it seems as if I'm criticising Tito, and that's not right. Tito is extraordinary in his own way. Tata is demanding, he is personable, the door to his office is always open. He is like one of the lads, he reminds me of Luis Aragonés in that sense, although he's not as much as a joker. We are really comfortable working with him and with his staff."
Are the current Bayern side under Pep better than Barça now?: "I haven't seen a whole 90 minutes of them yet. I watch La Liga and the Champions League, but I still haven't seen a whole Bayern game. If there were 15 teams who were better than Barcelona, then we'd have a problem on our hands, that would be alarming, and that's something we would have to look into. But let me ask you: which team in La Liga is better than Barça?"
Challenge awaiting Valdés' successor: "It's going be very difficult for him. I'm sure that the press will focus heavily on the new guy, but it'll be up to us to help him perform to the highest level, to keep him calm and not put pressure on him. You only realise how important a player is when you are set to lose him. Many people have been very critical of Víctor, they have been very unfair on him."
Future in Spain national team: "I want to enjoy the World Cup and then decide with Del Bosque what to do. I don't know what I will do, I will decide when the time is right."
Champions League: "The only people that don't make us favourites are our national press. If you go outside Spain we are the favourites, along with Bayern, in every bookmakers."
Neymar: "He's extraordinary. He is 21 years old and can still improve. He's intelligent and has a great talent for reading the game, he doesn't give the ball away easily. In training you see how classy he is."