Xavi Hernández wrote an editorial for the Spanish newspaper El País where he discussed about Messi and everything that the marvellous Argentinian has done for FC Barcelona. You can read it in Spanish here.

I met Leo when he came to the dressing room of the first team, at 16, but I knew of him from before. Sergi Alegre, a great friend who had worked in the Barcelona academy for a long time one day told me: “Xavi, very good kids are coming up,” talking about the generation of Piqué, Cesc and the others. “But there is an Argentine that is better than you can imagine. Spectacular. You’ll see.” So, from this story, I knew who he was when I saw him in the dressing room. You could tell he was different, obviously, because there are things you notice in the first rondo. And Leo, above all, had a talent that is the hardest to achieve: he understood the game, he could pass well and he could dribble around anyone you put in front of him: he used to leave the best defender we had on the ground. A while after he came to the first team we shared a trip and I discovered an educated boy, who was respectful, humble and not conceited at all. And that makes him exemplary, because being what he is now, being the best, he hasn’t lost those values, he hasn’t lost a bit of that humility and he respects his teammates. I think Leo never wanted to be different from the others.

He was different, but he was only 16 years old, so I thought he’d be good, but I knew that football is very complicated, that a lot of things interfere, I never imagined he’d be the best player in history. Ever since I’ve known him he hasn’t stopped evolving. He improved what he had and he has also turned himself into a goalscorer. He didn’t use to score so much and now he scores everything, he takes free kicks… And, like Pep says, he dominates every aspect of the game. We’ll never see something similar. Not only because of what he can do, but because of the time that he’s been doing it for. Others have lasted two years, three… He seems to have no end in sight.

As culés we’ve been very lucky because he came to Barcelona. Without him, Barça wouldn’t be the same, he is the cornerstone of the club’s success in the last decade. And that’s something that you can’t overlook when talking about Leo, because it’s worthy of praise: you can have one good year or two, but being the best for such a long time shows that he has the unusual winning character of a person who not only likes what he does, but who is a perfectionist, who never has enough, if he scores two, he wants the third. And that is what people see in games, but during the week he’s the same, that’s how he improves everyone around him, because being at his level demands a lot.

That character makes him incredibly upset after losing a game. Or it makes him very sad, because he always wants to win. Nothing bothers him more than defeat. I recall he was inconsolable the day he missed a penalty against Chelsea and we were eliminated from the Champions League. But he was also upset when he missed it against Manchester City, even if we won 3-1. And you go and you tell him that it’s fine and he tells you “No, it’s not. I failed.” And it’s true, there have been days when I’ve seen him mad at himself and the ones next to him and at the world in general, but who doesn’t have days like those? Plus, it can’t be easy dealing with being number one and in 99.9 percent of the cases he does this wonderfully. So he is more than forgiven, because everything is thoroughly compensated with the way he spreads happiness to everyone who likes football.

Personally I think I’m his friend. He’s introverted and it’s not easy for him to open up, but when he trusts you he’s very fun, a big joker. He has great lines. And a huge heart, he’s a great guy. He always has a moment to help with what you ask. “Hey, Leo, a friend asked me for some boots for a foundation for some kids…” He takes his boots off, signs them and gives them to you. Always. But what I value most about him is that he is honest. He never betrays you. He has a strong character and when he doesn’t like something, that’s that. Don’t try to convince him. But he tells you that to your face. I always have the feeling that he’d never betray me. If he has something to tell me he does and I know he’d never stab me in the back. Messi only betrays defenders and goalkeepers. And I appreciate that a lot about him. In that way we’re very similar. Thank you for that, Leo.

And thank you for playing like you do – for your runs, for your goals, for your passes and your dribbles, for what you’ve given Barça and football. And for being how you are.

And congratulations on another Ballon d’Or. You’ve earned it.

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