Thursday, October 04, 2012

Grant Wahl: Inside Barcelona: Xavi's passion, ambition evident on field, in person

Xavi Hernández Creus -- or, as most of us call him, Xavi -- is a lot of things: the creative hub of Barcelona's otherworldly passing attack; a self-described "football romantic" who's convinced Barça is fighting for the soul of the sport; and, not least, a serial champion, the winner of one World Cup and two European crowns with Spain to go along with three Champions League and six Spanish league titles with Barcelona.

But the 32-year-old Xavi is something else, too, which I learned during a lengthy sit-down conversation at Barcelona's training headquarters in Sant Joan Despí. He's one of the top five athlete interviews I've had in 16 years at Sports Illustrated. Maybe it's because Xavi is at a stage in his career when his accomplishments give him the security to be candid and speak his mind. Or maybe he just has the gift, rare among elite athletes, to find the right words to describe his artistry and the world around him.

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