When Xavi Hernández joined FC Barcelona's academy at the age of 11, nobody could have imagined the impact he would go on to have for both club and country.
The midfield metronome came through the side's La Masia ranks before making his Liga debut against Valencia CF as an 18-year-old under the stewardship of Louis van Gaal in October 1998. Just under 17 years on, his 88th-minute in Saturday's 2-0 victory at RCD Espanyol marked the Barcelona captain's 500th league appearance in the Catalan outfit's colours.
The 1998/99 campaign was a breakthrough one for the central midfielder, who fought it out for a starting berth alongside friend and future manager Josep Guardiola, as Barcelona went on to lift the Spanish title. Indeed, an injury to Guardiola 12 months later gave Xavi the chance to cement his spot in the side, and it is only recently that he has faced serious competition for a starting berth.
The 35-year-old is one of football's most decorated players, having won seven Liga crowns, two Copa del Reys, three UEFA Champions League titles, two UEFA Super Cups and a pair of FIFA Club World Cups with the Blaugrana. He was also a key member of Spain's historic UEFA EURO 2008 and UEFA EURO 2012-winning sides, in addition to playing a pivotal role as La Roja clinched their first ever FIFA World Cup triumph in South Africa 2010.
The Liga 500 club
622 – Andoni Zubizarreta, 1981-98 (Athletic Club, Barcelona, Valencia CF)
550 – Raúl González, 1994-2010 (Real Madrid CF)
543 – Eusebio Sacristán, 1983-2002 (Real Valladolid CF, Club Atlético de Madrid, Barcelona, RC Celta de Vigo)
542 – Francisco Buyo, 1980-1997 (RC Deportivo La Coruña, Sevilla FC, Real Madrid)
523 – Manuel Sanchís, 1983-2001 (Real Madrid)
506 – Iker Casillas, 1999- (Real Madrid)
504 – Miquel Soler, 1983-2003 (RCD Espanyol, Barcelona, Atlético, Sevilla, Real Madrid, Real Zaragoza, RCD Mallorca)
500 – Xavi Hernández, 1998- (Barcelona)
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