UEFA.com delves into the archive to discover some pearls of wisdom from Xavi Hernández, who pulled on the FC Barcelona shirt for the 700th time in Thursday's Copa del Rey quarter-final decider at Getafe CF. As well as retracing his first steps in football, the erudite midfielder, 33, reveals what it takes to reach the top and offers a glimpse into his telepathic relationship with club and country sidekick Andrés Iniesta.
UEFA.com: What are your earliest football memories?
Xavi Hernández: My first memory is a pair of football boots and a ball. Football runs in the family, so they were given to me as a Christmas present. From that moment I knew I wanted to play football. I started playing aged four at school in Terrassa, which is my home town, not too far from Barcelona. I joined Barcelona when I was 11.
UEFA.com: Who were your heroes growing up?
Xavi: Initially Bernd Schuster, but when I began training with Barcelona it was Josep Guardiola, who became my coach. Football is a small world.
UEFA.com: What skill did you work on most as a youngster?
Xavi: Above all I practised dribbling. We would play two-a-side in the street and you needed to be skilful to succeed. I would often attempt one-twos using a bench or phone booth.
UEFA.com: What advice do you have for aspiring footballers?
Xavi: The most important thing is to enjoy the game as much as possible. Never lose sight of your dreams and always pay attention to your coach. Listen carefully because it will serve you well in the future.
UEFA.com: What qualities do you need to be a great midfielder?
Xavi: You must be technically proficient. To have good control, be able to pick a pass and distribute the ball accurately is vital. These are our main weapons at Barcelona.
UEFA.com: Who is your favourite player right now?
Xavi: At the moment there's one player superior to the rest – Lionel Messi. People who know their football would agree. The players know it, everyone knows it. He's still very young and ambitious, so I expect even more from him in the future.
UEFA.com: If you could play with any midfielder – someone who is playing now – who would it be?
Xavi: The player who understands me best on the pitch, both at Barcelona and with the national team, is Andrés Iniesta. He is a complete player, we link up well together. It is a real privilege to play with players of this quality – like Iniesta, Cesc Fàbregas, Marcos Senna, Yaya Touré and Sergio Busquets. I have always said I rely on my team-mates. I also like Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Andrea Pirlo.
UEFA.com: What does it mean to represent Spain?
Xavi: Representing your country is the pinnacle. It is an honour, something I have said a thousand times. I hope to continue playing for however long my body allows.
UEFA.com: Spain play in a very similar way to Barcelona, so are there any differences?
Xavi: There aren't many because most of the regular players at Barcelona are also regulars in the national side. Perhaps we don't have any individual player who makes a real difference, like Messi. Both have great technical players who want to attack, which results in great football. The group as a whole is the most important thing; at Barcelona as well, but Messi makes a difference whenever he touches the ball.
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