As the old saying goes, “no one is a prophet in his own land”, but this is a half-truth. In recent days, two of the greatest players that have graced European football in the last 20 years have said goodbye to their homeland. After years of mutual love, Steve Gerrard and Xavi have decided to leave.
These two players represent an atypical pattern. While it is common these days for the ‘gladiators’ in short pants and boots lead a life of globetrotters, fighting for the ‘Cesar’ that pays them best, Xavi and Gerrard decided that there is no better place like home.
It is true that both players have been part of two of the most important teams in world football. Yet it is noteworthy that, in a sport that is slowly losing the romanticism of yesteryear, Xavi and Gerrard represent the validity of football over the business.
The departure of Xavi reminds us in some ways of that of Josep Guardiola. Both were products of La Masia, both were part of great teams that remain in the history of FC Barcelona. Today in Catalonia, to say Guardiola or Xavi is akin to talking about Salvador Dali and his “Persistence of Memory” or the songs of Joan Manuel Serrat.
They were born, grew and were successful there. Their triumph was the triumph of a society that lived delayed and subjugated to the will of the ‘damn’ Madrid, which not only prevented the Catalans from reaching the much desired independence but also, and thanks to the wills of Generalissimo Franco, robbed them of the opportunity to enjoy the greatness of Alfredo Di Stefano.
Xavi gave everything to Barcelona and the Barca gave everything to him, but now is the time to let go. Qatar appears to be the perfect destination for the Spanish midfielder, where he will play his last matches without fear.
Xavi does not fear rivals, Xavi is afraid of himself. The years, the injuries, the matches, have worn his body, undermining his performances on the field. Leaving Barcelona makes it certain that his legend remains immaculate.
Something similar has happened with Steven Gerrard. He knows well that he never walks alone, but his heart asks for a new challenge. Gerrard is a kind of adventurer. His natural domain is the midfield, where he organizes every movement of Liverpool with the simplicity of an orchestra conductor. But far from staying in his comfort zone, Gerrard ventures into the attack whenever opportunity allows.
So often, his goals were the key that opens the most difficult games. That Champions League final played against AC Milan in 2005 is the proof which certifies that.
After a first half, in which everything that could go wrong, went wrong, Liverpool rallied from a crushing 0-3 position and managed to take the match into a penalty shootout where the Reds were the victors. This game was not only one of the most stunning finals in the history of the Champions League, but it was also the apotheosis of Steven Gerrard.
The new destination for the English midfielder will be the glamorous Los Angeles Galaxy, where football is mixed with the movie stars. Life has contrasts.
While Hollywood Boulevard, with all its luxury and distinction, awaits with open arms for their new signing, Anfield’s Spion Kop has bid farewell to his most beloved son with gratitude, tears and the certainty that nothing will ever be the same in Liverpool.
It is true what some writers and poets say. The first love is the most important of all. What comes after that is just a vain search. The most significant moment of this love is the last kiss, the ultimate demonstration of love which summarises the good and bad that they have lived together. Xavi, Gerrard and their teams are living that particular moment.
Long kiss, goodbye.