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”Irreplaceable” Xavi calls time on Barcelona career

If you ask Barcelona and Spain fans about their most cherished footballing memories over the past decade the chances are they will involve an exquisite intervention from midfield maestro Xavi.

Widely regarded as one of the best playmakers the game has produced, Xavi has been the tireless dynamo at the heart of a glittering run for his club and country, effortlessly controlling play in the central areas and able to pierce even the most stubborn defences in a heartbeat.

The 35-year-old from Terrassa announced on Thursday he was leaving Barca after more than two decades with the Catalan club he joined aged 11, during which he has won 23 titles, including three Champions League crowns and eight La Liga trophies.

With Spain, he helped end a 44-year trophy drought at Euro 2008, sending Fernando Torres clear to score the winner against Germany in the final, and went on to lead La Roja to their first World Cup success in 2010 and another continental crown two years later.

Spain destroyed Italy 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final in Kiev, when Xavi created two of their goals including another for Torres, and the general consensus after the news emerged he had agreed a three-year deal with Qatari club Al Sadd was that Spain is unlikely to see a player of his quality again anytime soon.

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