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 Posted by Dermot Ledwith
Aug 5, 2014

Xavi's Spain retirement is good news for Barca

Xavi has retired from international football after winning 133 caps, two European championships and the World Cup. He has also decided to stay at Barcelona.

Xavi Hernandez's decision to finally stay at Barcelona for at least one of the two remaining years on his contract can only be a positive thing for the club.

Meanwhile the added announcement on Tuesday of his retirement from international football, albeit expected, will only aid his cause as he attempts to help Barca to recover from its first season without a major trophy in six.

- Report: Xavi quits Spain

The player's U-turn on his future was a decision taken following long meetings with new coach Luis Enrique, who obviously sees a role for the midfielder in his new-look squad.

It is to be expected that a player who is seen as one of the more humble stars on the world stage will have the character to take a step back and play a lesser role, and use his experience -- from over 700 games for the club -- to be of use both on and off the pitch.

In his news conference on Tuesday, Xavi described last term as disappointing, but added: "Not winning anything last season gives us an extra pressure. This year we will feel what it means to be Barca; here only excellence is accepted."

On the challenge to turn things around, Xavi said: "I'm here for whatever. I won't pull any faces and will look to add where I can."

Coming from a player whom Pep Guardiola revealed went mushroom-picking in his spare time, that can be well believed.

If the lesser role is one that a player who led Spain to two European championships and a World Cup is willing to accept, then Barca will have gained from his dramatic change of heart.

While his international retirement will not come as a surprise, it does reinforce what a shame it was that a player of Xavi's powers could bow out of international football after just one disappointing 90 minutes against Netherlands in Brazil.

Linked with semi-retirement with Qatar club Al Arabi, Xavi has decided at the age of 34 -- almost two years older than David Villa, who has gone down that route with New York City -- that he can still play at the highest level.

And with his style of play based around the ball doing the work and accurate passing, there is no reason he will not have the legs to help out when Enrique's tactics dictate that he is required.

Enrique has already hinted at changes in the way his side set up in the future, with new signings Ivan Rakitic to fit into a central position and Luis Suarez further forward. Lionel Messi could also see his role become deeper in some games, and that will undoubtedly reduce Xavi's playing time.

Xavi reportedly wanted to retire on a high after winning Euro 2012 but changed his mind -- but there's no going back this time.

The new coach, however, has also said that he wants to adapt his side depending on the opposition, and Xavi more than anyone has allowed Barca to frustrate teams over the years by keeping the ball and playing perfect possession football. His initial decision to leave the club was said to be made after being left on the bench of the La Liga title decider against Atletico Madrid in May, in favour of Cesc Fabregas.

But Fabregas was ineffective, and in hindsight things could have been different if Xavi had been picked to start that day to pull the strings in the Barcelona midfield, as he has done on so many occasions since his league debut in 1997.

He was as majestic as ever at times last season and was by no means made a scapegoat by fans or press for Barcelona's lack of success. On Tuesday he reiterated that Enrique had made it clear that he will be important and that he can add to his squad.

"I am available and feel like I did as a kid starting out. At the end of the season I think we will have achieved lots of things," he said.

With seven La Liga titles to his name, the aim now has to be for Xavi to add an eighth in the coming season, while keeping one eye on a potential fourth Champions League winners' medal.

Whether those trophy tilts are made through a lot of game time or whether he is used sparingly, only Luis Enrique can decide. What is for certain is that many Cules will be happier at the confirmation that Xavi is still a Barca player for at least one more year.

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