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Rewind to Boxing Day 1963

Barclays Premier League
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Xavi: Barcelona are the best

Barcelona midfielder Xavi has claimed the current European and Spanish champions are the best team of the last 20 years and hailed Lionel Messi as the best player of all time.

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• Rossi wants to join Barcelona

Barcelona swept all before them once again this season to pick up the La Liga and Champions League double and the Spain international was happy to indulge in some rare trumpet blowing.

He told German newspaper Bild: ''There have been some great teams in history, Pele's Brazil, (Johan) Cruyff's Ajax, (Arrigo) Sacchi's Milan but in the past 20 years this Barcelona team is the best.''

On Messi, he added: ''He is the best player of all time - better than Pele, Maradona or Cruyff. We have to protect him as he is crucial. Without him we would not be what we are.''

Coach Pep Guardiola has also received high praise for his work, and although reports suggested that he was on the verge of standing down, Xavi claimed he hopes the former Barcelona midfielder ''stays forever''.

He added: ''He (Guardiola) is very intelligent, very enthusiastic and very 'Barcelona-ish'. He is a great coach and I hope he stays forever, if not as coach then as sporting director or president.''

The only black mark in the Catalans' season was the Copa del Rey final defeat to arch-rivals Real Madrid. Xavi, though, was critical of the approach adopted by Jose Mourinho's men throughout the season.

He said: ''Madrid were the hardest opponents but not because they played football but because they wanted to destroy the game. I like Manchester United's approach a thousand times better. It would be interesting to see what would happen if Real did play.''

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