Barcelona's Xavi has gone from a being a bit part figure to once again leading the midfield and coach Luis Enrique believes he is now fundamental to the team as they prepare to face APOEL in the Champions League on Tuesday.
The veteran captain looked a dejected figure watching from the bench in the opening matches of the season and it seemed arguable whether he made the right decision to stay, having listened to offers to end his career in the U.S. and Qatar.
However, with Barca struggling for consistency under new coach Luis Enrique, the tireless Xavi has worked his way back into the side and come to the fore.
Lionel Messi hit a hat-trick to set a La Liga scoring record of 253 goals in a 5-1 win over Sevilla on Saturday and it was Xavi who was pulling the strings in the middle of the pitch.
Barcelona face APOEL with nine points from four games in Group F, a point behind leaders Paris Saint-Germain who beat them 3-2 at the Parc des Princes.
“If there were two players I knew when I arrived they were Xavi and (Andres) Iniesta as I played with them,” Luis Enrique told a news conference in Nicosia.
“He is our captain, a fundamental player for us and I am delighted that it is the case. There will not be another player like Xavi with his style of play and quality.”
Fellow midfielder Ivan Rakitic said he had improved by playing alongside Xavi.
“He is the boss of all midfielders and the owner of our midfield,” Rakitic told the news conference.
“For all that Xavi has given football I am really happy to be in the same team as him and able to learn from him. I can enjoy watching him play and at the same time fight with him for titles.”
The combative Rakitic was also full of praise for Messi, who is close to breaking the Champions League scoring record having moved level on 71 goals with Raul.
“It is difficult to find new words to describe Leo,” said the Croatia international. "It is great to play a small part in the history which he is creating. If God wants and he keeps fit then there is no ceiling on what he is capable of achieving.”
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)