Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez said it is an “injustice” that Sergio Busquets was never among the candidates to win the Ballon d’Or after the midfielder announced his departure from the club this week.
Busquets, 34, will not renew his contract with Barca when it expires at the end of the season, bringing an end to 18 years at Spotify Camp Nou, during which time he has made over 700 appearances. Only Lionel Messi and Xavi have made more.
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Many of those games came as part of a three-man midfield alongside Xavi and Andres Iniesta, who both figured on the Ballon d’Or podium during their careers, while Busquets has only been nominated once, finishing 20th in 2012.
“He is the best pivot, deep midfielder, whatever you want to call it, that I have seen with my eyes,” Xavi said in a news conference ahead of Sunday’s LaLiga game against Espanyol, when Barca could wrap up the league title.
“It always seemed a massive injustice to me that he was never among the nominees for the Ballon d’Or. There is a lot of injustice in football and that was one of them.
“He is perhaps the most intelligent midfielder I played with. He has been a 10 out of 10 in every department and is the best pivot in Barca’s history.”
Xavi said he respects and understands Busquets’ decision to leave this summer, even though he added it will be “detrimental” to the team, with the former Spain international still a regular starter. Busquets is not the only person leaving Barca at the end of the season.
ESPN reported that director of football Mateu Alemany will also depart and he has been in advanced negotiations to join Premier League side to Aston Villa.
“We are losing an important asset,” Xavi said of Alemany. “He has been a key person in restructuring the club, along with [sporting director] Jordi [Cruyff]. It has been a pleasure working with him and it’s a big loss.”
Xavi said “nothing has been decided” regarding Cruyff’s future. Cruyff is out of contact in the summer and sources told ESPN it is uncertain if he will renew, with Deco likely to join as Barca restructure their recruitment team in the coming months.
On the pitch, Barca are two points from winning a first LaLiga title since 2019. Victory at Espanyol on Sunday will get them over the line — and they could win it before playing if Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid drop points — but Xavi says claiming the title at their local rivals is not an additional motivator.
“For me, the important thing is winning the league,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s at Espanyol, Camp Nou, Real Madrid or Getafe. What we value is the work done across the season to reach this position, not one derby game.
“I am sure it would be a big plus for the fans but, for us, it is just really important to win the league. I am desperate to win it.
“It would represent a big step forward. The club is being rebuilt and winning LaLiga on top of the Super Cup would be massive for me and the club.”
Barca have a fully fit squad for the game at relegation threatened Espanyol, who are second bottom and three points from safety with just five games to go in the season.