Xavi reduced to tears in emotional farewell event at Barcelona as Andres Iniesta pays tribute to his ‘captain, team-mate and friend’

  • Xavi is leaving Barcelona and will join Qatari side Al Sadd in the summer
  • The midfielder has won 24 trophies during his time with the Catalan club
  • Andres Iniesta paid tribute to his ‘captain, team-mate and friend’ on stage
  • His partner in crime also said ‘it has been a privilege to play by your side’
  • Xavi was reduced to tears after Iniesta took to the stage to make a speech  
  • The former Spain international thanked late manager Luis Aragones
  • He also said he will ‘always carry’ former boss Tito Vilanova in his heart 
  • Lionel Messi missed event after he was caught up in anti-doping control

An emotional Xavi was reduced to tears on stage at his farewell event ahead of his final appearance for Barcelona after Andres Iniesta paid tribute to his ‘captain, team-mate and friend’.

The departing-midfielder announced last month he will join Qatari side Al-Sadd at the end of the season, ending his 24-year run with the Catalan giants.

Before Xavi plays in Saturday’s Champions League final, Iniesta, who has been in Barcelona’s first team with his compatriot since 2002, paid tribute to the club legend.

Barcelona star Xavi (left) was joined by team-mate Andres Iniesta at his farewell event at the Nou Camp

Barcelona star Xavi (left) was joined by team-mate Andres Iniesta at his farewell event at the Nou Camp

The two Barcelona stars were joined on the stage by club president Josep Maria Bartomeu (left)

The former Spain international hugged Iniesta as he entered the stage and struggled to hold in his emotions

Xavi struggled to hold in his emotions after Iniesta thanked him for 'putting the group before yourself'

Xavi struggled to hold in his emotions after Iniesta thanked him for ‘putting the group before yourself’

The midfield maestro was reduced to tears after partner in crime Iniesta took to the stage to make a speech

The midfield maestro was reduced to tears after partner in crime Iniesta took to the stage to make a speech

A tearful Xavi pays tribute to Barcelona at farewell event

‘Captain, team-mate and friend. We can’t imagine the first work out of next season without you. It’s been a privilege to play alongside you,’ he said.

‘Thanks, Xavi, for always being an example, for always putting the group before yourself. Thanks for all your advice.

‘Thank you Xavi, for all those years, for all the talks, about football and other things. Those who know you know you will be back.’

Xavi is the longest serving and most decorated Barca player, having joined at the age of 11, and he eventually took to the stage to pay tribute to the club.

‘I want to thank every member and every fan, I’m very grateful,’ he said at the event.

‘The trophies are nothing compared to the laughs I had here and the friends I’m leaving behind.

Iniesta, who has been in Barcelona's first team with Xavi since 2002, presented the star with a signed shirt

Iniesta, who has been in Barcelona’s first team with Xavi since 2002, presented the star with a signed shirt

Xavi in turn thanked the club, saying: 'I want to thank every member and every fan, I'm very grateful'

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu makes a speech as the club celebrate Xavi's career at the club

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu makes a speech as the club celebrate Xavi’s career at the club

Xavi waves to the crowd, which included his family and team-mates, as he prepares to play in his final match

Past and present players including Carles Puyol, Dani Alves and Neymar attended the event on Wednesday

Past and present players including Carles Puyol, Dani Alves and Neymar attended the event on Wednesday

Alves, who is also set to leave Barcelona in the summer, shakes hands with Xavi's parents

Alves, who is also set to leave Barcelona in the summer, shakes hands with Xavi’s parents

Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff (middle) also attended the event which was held at the Nou Camp 

Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff (middle) also attended the event which was held at the Nou Camp

‘It’s me who should be grateful – I could never have imagined all the things that have happened to me here.

‘Thanks to Luis Enrique and Zubi (Andoni Zubizarreta), who convinced me not to leave last summer. I’d have killed myself now if I had left.’

A World Cup winner with Spain, Xavi has made over 500 appearances for the Blaugrana, clinching 24 trophies, including three Champions League and eight Primera Division titles.

Xavi reflected on his career as both a club and international player, and paid tribute to late managers Tito Vilanova, who managed him at Barca, and former Spain boss Luis Aragones.

Barcelona star Xavi has paid tribute to Luis Enrique after revealing the boss persuaded him to stay at the club

Barcelona star Xavi has paid tribute to Luis Enrique after revealing the boss persuaded him to stay at the club

Xavi is preparing to make his final appearance for the club, which will come in the Champions League final

The former Spain international helped Barcelona secure the Copa del Rey trophy last Saturday

‘Tito has been my football father and I will always carry him in my heart,’ he said.

‘Coach (Luis Aragones), wherever you are, know I will never be able to thank you enough for everything you did for me.’

Xavi, who has helped Barca secure the La Liga and Copa del Rey this season, also revealed he hopes to return to the club in the future.

‘I hope this isn’t a goodbye, but a see-you-soon. Thanks for everything, Barca.’

Past and present team-mates attended the event at the Nou Camp and players including Andres Iniesta gave speeches.

There were, however, five notable absences in Lionel Messi, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Gerard Pique, Ivan Rakitic and Rafinha.

Messi posted an Instagram snap of the group which revealed they were caught up in anti-doping control.

Xavi paid tribute to the late Luis Aragones

Lionel Messi, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Gerard Pique, Ivan Rakitic and Rafinha did not make Xavi's event

Lionel Messi, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Gerard Pique, Ivan Rakitic and Rafinha did not make Xavi’s event

Despite his team-mates absence, there were plenty of familiar faces who attended the emotional event including Xavi’s former captain Carles Puyol.

It’s not the first time Xavi has been reduced to tears this season after Barcelona fans paid tribute to their legendary playmaker in his final La Liga game for the club.

As he closed the curtain on what has been a hugely successful era at Barcelona, the captain couldn’t help but shed a tear, as he left the pitch.

Depending on Saturday’s result in Berlin, the midfield maestro might have to wipe away tears one more time.

But as both Xavi and Iniesta hinted, he’ll be back.

XAVI SCORED AGAINST GIANLUIGI BUFFON WHEN BARCA LAST MET JUVE

The goodbyes just keep getting better for Xavi. First there was the last league game of the season when he tearfully collected the league title from the president of the Spanish FA Angel Villar.

Then came goodbye number two when he hit the post in the last minute of the Copa del Rey win over Athletic Bilbao and at full time went up in the Camp Nou lift with Andres Iniesta to collect the King’s Cup and bring it down on to the pitch to his celebrating team-mates.

And now because of Iniesta’s calf strain he could be in line to start the Champions League final against Juventus in Berlin on Saturday. This really will be goodbye and if he lifts the trophy it will be his 25th won with Barcelona.

And if Xavi doesn’t get his hands on the prize there will still be a legend lifting the most-coveted club trophy in football because Juventus’ Gianluigi Buffon is the captain competing with Xavi for the honour.

The 37-year-old has never won the European Cup – it’s about the only thing missing from his trophy cabinet since his £23.3million move in 2001 from Parma. He is the Juve legend that stood by the club when it was relegated because of match-fixing and there are five league titles and over 750 games for him to look back on when he retires.

The last time Juventus and Barcelona played each other Xavi and Buffon were on the pitch together.

Current Barca manager Luis Enrique was alongside Xavi in the team that lost a 2003 Champions League quarter-final 2-1 on the night to crash out. Xavi scored past Buffon to level the game but an extra-time goal from Marcelo Zelayeta sealed their fate. Juventus lost the final to AC Milan.

Buffon is in his 14th season at Juventus – just two short of Xavi – but unlike the Spaniard there is a gap in his honours list. He can fill it by winning the European Cup this weekend, and at the Olympic Stadium where he lifted the World Cup for Italy in 2006.

Read the full article by Pete Jenson here 

Xavi celebrates after scoring against Juventus' Gianluigi Buffon in a Champions League quarter-final in 2003

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