Xavi honoured to reach milestone
Xavi says he is honoured to have become Barcelona's joint all-time record appearance holder alongside former central defender Migueli and reveals he hopes to go on playing for the Catalan side for many more years.
He played his 549th official match for the Catalan club on Sunday evening as Barca beat Levante 2-1 at the Nou Camp. That equals the total set by former Spain defender Migueli, who was present to greet Xavi before the match.
"It's an honour and I would like to thank everyone for the support I have always received,'' the midfielder told Canal Plus after the game.
Xavi, now 30, signed a new deal earlier this year to keep him at Barca until the age of 36. And despite some injury problems this season, he hopes to stay at the club for the remainder of that agreement.
"I hope to go on for many years and, if possible, carry on winning titles with Barca,'' he said.
Xavi has won virtually all there is to win at both club and international level, including five Primera Division titles, two Champions Leagues and a World Club Cup with Barcelona, and both the World Cup and the European Championship with Spain.
The midfielder is also in line to win this year's Golden Ball, in which he is shortlisted for the prize alongside team-mates Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.
"Whoever wins it, Barca will be the winner,'' he said. "It's staying at home.''
Barca coach Pep Guardiola says he wanted to win this evening's match for Xavi.
"We wanted to win for him. He's had operations on his cruciates (ligaments), he's 30 and he's played 549 games,'' he said after the match.
"I played 300 here and I thought that was a lot, but what he has done is incredible.''
And Guardiola believes that, injuries permitting, Xavi could reach 700 games for Barca.
"If his tendons hold out, I think he could get to 700,'' he said.
With Messi, Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique all missing, Barca ran out 2-1 winners thanks to a Pedro brace early in the second half and held on for the victory despite Christian Stuani's stunning late volley.
"I was very worried about this game,'' Guardiola said. "Another 50 years will go by and it will still be difficult when teams 'park the bus' at the back.''
Puyol missed out through injury, while Pique was suspended, but holding midfielder Sergio Busquets filled in impressively at the back.
"I knew he could do well there because he is very attentive, disciplined and good at bringing the ball out of defence,'' Guardiola said.
Barca are now provisionally five points ahead of fierce rivals Real Madrid, who visit Getafe on Monday.
Guardiola's side now switch their attentions to the Copa del Rey clash at Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday.
Having drawn the first leg of their last 16 tie 0-0 at the Nou Camp, Guardiola is expected to name a strong side for the trip to Bilbao.
Messi, who was given permission to miss the match against Levante and extend his holiday, is set to return to the side at San Mames.