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Xavi milestone hailed by Martino

Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino has congratulated Xavi Hernandez on playing his 700th game for the club, while calling on the midfielder to ensure he finishes his career at the Camp Nou.

Xavi made his first-team debut for Barca in 1998.
Xavi made his first-team debut for Barca in 1998.

Xavi played the final 20 minutes of Thursday’s 2-0 Copa del Rey last-16 second leg at Getafe, helping his side to complete a 6-0 aggregate passage to the quarterfinals, and also becoming the first Blaugrana player to reach the 700-match milestone.

Speaking to reporters after the game, the Argentine coach hailed the achievement, while subtly saying he hoped Xavi -- who this week denied he was considering a move to New York to play in MLS -- was not tempted to play a few seasons elsewhere before he hung up his boots.

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"To play 700 games with Barca is not so normal," Martino said. "He plays easily, he is very intelligent, and whiles he feels good he will keep doing that. He is the type of player who should not retire in a jersey which is not the one he has always worn."

The player himself -- who revealed after the match that Barca asked to put his jersey from the match in the club's museum -- was pleased with his milestone but said he remained focused on the team's objectives.

"This is an important match for me," he said. "I hope to continue to be important for Barca. "The most important thing is that we play well, our objectives are to win titles."

Xavi’s achievement, and Neymar’s initially serious-looking ankle injury, took some of the focus away from Lionel Messi completing a first 90 minutes of 2014, while scoring twice with the second being a superb solo effort when he sprang clear of four Getafe defenders, rounded the keeper and slotted home from a narrow angle.

Martino said this was all part of the process of the No. 10 returning to full fitness after two months on the sidelines.

"It was a question of time for Messi to play 90 minutes," he said. "Bit by bit he has been playing well and he feels good. He needed to pick up time in competitive games after being out for 60 days."


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