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Xavi Versus Xabi

Who's the better player?  The two are so similar, is it really possible to say who is better? Their names are even pronounced the same, even though there's a “v” in one and a “b” in the other.  Both are pronounced as “Chavi” in English.

Both are the key playmakers for their respective teams; they run the show for their clubs.  They both spray the ball around with ease, almost never missing their intended targets. Both players are sought-after by other clubs as potential players who can turn a club around, orchestrating the game from the center of the park.

Physically - and in years - Xabi has Xavi beat.  Xabi is 6’ tall and 27 years old, while Xavi of Barca, is 5’ 7” tall and 29 years old. Surprisingly, the older one might still be living at home with his family, while the younger just had another baby.

Since the two are now playing in La Liga, with Xabi at Real Madrid and Xavi probably a lifer at Barca, we'll be able to compare the two up-close on a regular basis.  On Spain’s national team, the two rarely play along side one another.  Rather, they fight for time, which isn't necessarily a bad thing for Spain.  Both are from Northern Spain, Xavi grew up outside Barcelona in Terrassa, while Xabi grew up in Tolosa, outside of San Sebastián.



When El Clasico takes place this year many will focus on Kaka and Cristiano versus Messi and Ibrahimovic, but the real showdown could be in the middle of the park with the two midfield-maestros seeing who can hit the better ball on a dime. 

Many in the know at Real Madrid have said the Xabi Alonso was their most important signing this summer; the key player to bring the new Galaticos together.  Barca won't sell Xavi he's too valuable to their team.

Right now, Xavi of Barcelona has to be the best at his position in the world, and maybe one of the best players in the world at any position - especially when you factor in how crucial he is to his team.  This past year he led his team to a treble victory, as Barcelona won the Copa Del Rey, La Liga and the Champions League. It'd be hard to say he isn't the better player right now. 

But Xabi won the Champions League in his first year while he was at Liverpool.  He was part of the epic come from behind 3-3 penalty shoot out victory over AC Milan. He was the one who had his penalty saved in regulation but followed up the shot to tie the game and send it into overtime. What a crushing loss that must still be for AC Milan players and fans. 

Xabi seems to be coming into his own.  He's in his prime as a soccer player.  Capable of bending in a ball on a free kick or scoring from outside the box.  He now has a new stage to conquer at Real Madrid.

Both are magnificent players, elite passers of the ball, but each has somewhat of a different skill-set. Xabi is more likely to strike a long ball diagonally up the field to Torres, and now Cristano or Kaka. Whereas Xavi prefers to swing the ball from left to right, and favors the short give-and-go between Messi, Alves, Iniesta and Henry.  Xavi plays with a bit more pep and energy.  He is an engine of a player, tirelessly engaged in the game from one end to the other, right to left.  He has his foot involved in nearly everything.  Xabi on the other hand is more languid and drifts around the park.  He has a casualness about him that might lull opposing players to sleep. Xabi is probably the better striker of the ball on goal, with power.

There are of course many similarities between the two, as they both play one and two-touch soccer, neither will really dribble at an opponent, and they both rarely, if ever, give the ball away.  The two can play the ball to the feet of a player on the run or while standing, with equal precision.  Both are leaders, Xavi has been vice captain for Barcelona the past few years.  Xabi helped steer Real Sociedad up from the relegation zone in La Liga when he was just 18.

Xavi learned his game growing up in the Barcelona youth system, where he started playing at age 11.  His mentor was his current coach, Pep Guardiola, who he replaced as the point man of the Barcelona attack. 

Xabi learned from playing with his brother, Mikel, who also came up through the Real Sociedad youth system.  Xabi also learned from his dad, the former coach at Real Sociedad for a period of time and a retired professional.

And though these two players play very smart and simple soccer, from time to time they do the unexpected.  Xavi loves to do a spin move to avoid a tackle.  Xabi likes to take shots from half-field, trying to chip the keeper, which he has done with success on a few occasions.

This video, from a few years ago, is of Xavi giving a tour of where he grew up. He was 26 years old and still living with his family, a little old perhaps for this, but that's not uncommon in Spain. 

However, for a millionaire like Xavi, it is very rare. Xavi could go down as one of the greatest players in Barcelona history if he can continue to win trophies for the club, not matter where he lives. It's a refreshing, sort of anti-MTV Cribs clip of Xavi's life at home.

 

In the end, not really sure which player is better, it's too hard to make a call. I'd lean towards Xavi right now, but we'll know the answer this year, as we see who helps their team to more trophies. 

What they are is classic, true professionals.  They are old school in a way, from an older generation, footballers who respect the game and know its history.


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