As the Spanish and European champions Barcelona prepare to come to Abu Dhabi to take part in the Club World Cup, one of their most integral players has pledged the rest of his career to the club. Xavi, a graduate of the club's youth academy and third in the Ballon d'Or, revealed in an interview with The National that he had turned down moves to AC Milan and Manchester United.
The Catalan team are renowned for their breathtaking attacking style and a flourishing youth system, which produced players such as Pep Guardiola, now the coach, Lionel Messi and club captain Carles Puyol. Testament to that policy is the fact that three of Barca's academy graduates were nominated in the top four of the Ballon d'Or, awarded by France Football for the world's best player, with the Argentine striker Messi winning the trophy last week.
It is that philosophy that has prompted Xavi to declare: "I'll never leave Barcelona. I've had offers to leave but I'm here for as long as possible. "Milan, they wanted me when I was younger. And Manchester United, they didn't make a direct approach but Alex Ferguson's brother spoke to my agent. But I'd never leave. "Money isn't the most important thing and I've been a Barca fan all my life." Barcelona travel to Ukraine to face Dynamo Kiev in their vital Champions League game tomorrow before a Primera Liga trip to city rivals Espanyol on Saturday night. They will then fly to Abu Dhabi.
Xavi added: "We have a great dream to win this trophy. Barca have never won it. Our Mister, Guardiola, he's serious about winning it too - it will be our sixth trophy in 2009." firstname.lastname@example.org