Barcelona exit tough for record-breaking Xavi

AFP , Sunday 7 Jun 2015

Barcelona's Xavi celebrates with the trophy and team mates after winning the UEFA Champions League at the Olympic stadium in Berlin Saturday, June 6, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)

Record-breaker Xavi Hernandez says it will be tough to leave Barcelona after lifting the Champions League trophy on his final appearance in the famous strip.

The 35-year-old came on in the 78th minute to set a new record of 151 Champions League appearances in Barcelona's 3-1 win over Juventus in the final in Berlin which was the fourth time he had won European club football's most prestigious trophy.

Having started at the Catalan giants as an 11-year-old, Xavi will join Qatari side Al Sadd next season.

He admitted that leaving Barcelona will hit him hard having won his 25th title with the club.

The final took a dramatic turn when an early goal by Barca's Ivan Rakitic was cancelled out by Juventus' ex-Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata with the equaliser on 55 minutes.

But Xavi says Barcelona's superstar Lionel Messi made the difference as his brilliant run led to Luis Suarez making it 2-1 to the Spaniards in the second-half before Neymar scored their third at the death.

"To leave this way is amazing, but I have a bit of nostalgia thinking I'm never going to play for this side again and I really wanted to lift the cup," said Xavi, who lost his place in the starting side to Rakitic this season.

"We suffered a lot, because Juve put pressure on us, but Leo [Messi] popped up again.

Triumphant departure

"The side is sensational and Messi is outrageous."

Xavi said the best thing for Barcelona now is for Luis Enrique to stay on with the head coach having left his future open, despite winning the treble of European, cup and league titles in his debut season.

"Luis Enrique deserves this because he's had a lot of criticism, but he's been a great leader for the side. The best thing for next year is for Luis Enrique to stay," said Xavi.

Defender Gerard Pique said that Xavi was part of a "unique generation" at Barcelona that has overcome seasons without a trophy as well as enjoyed triumphs.

"Xavi deserves everything," said Pique.

"He is leaving us with an important legacy: how to play football and take on victory and defeat. He will always be with us."

This was the fifth time Barcelona have been crowned European champions and it is their fourth Champions League title in the last decade after their 2006, 2009 and 2011 triumphs.

"I'm lost for words. It's spectacular to win three trophies in a season once again," said Barcelona captain Andreas Iniesta, who was replaced by Xavi, and was part of the 2009 treble-winning team.

"I think there's not enough words to express how proud we are.

"Both trebles are special. The first time you think you'll never do it again, and yet we have. It's a proud day for Barca.

"We want to do it all again next year and win a sixth title.

"You can never rest on what we have achieved.

"At a club like this, we have to look for the next challenge.

"But right at the moment, I just want to enjoy winning this fifth title for the club."

Having handed over his arm-band to Xavi and the privilege of being the first to lift the trophy, Iniesta said it was only fitting for the club veteran to bow out on the big stage.

"It is perfect for him and the club. There is no better send-off than lifting the Champions League," said Iniesta.

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