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23 years after appearing in his first derby against Espanyol, and six years after the last, this Saturday Xavi Hernández will be experiencing the oldest game in Spanish football for the first time as a manger. As a player, Espanyol was the team against which he won the most games (25) and also scored the most goals (6). In fact, Xavi has played in the Barcelona Derby more times than any other player.
Decade and a half of derbies
The first for Xavi was on 25 October 1998, although he was already well accustomed to the match-up after facing the parakeets so many times at youth level. With Louis Van Gaal as manager and the Olympic Stadium as the venue, Barça won 2-1 with goals from Kluivert and Giovanni.
He would go on to have a 25-9-2 record in 36 derbies. The second and third teams against which he won most games were Athletic Club (23) and Sevilla (20).
Most of those games were in the league, but there were a scattering of cup ties too. In 2000/01, Barça won 2-1 in a single-leg quarter final, and in the 2008/09 treble season, Barça knocked out their local rivals 3-2 on aggregate.
All six of Xavi’s goals against Espanyol (five in La Liga and one in the Super Cup) came under different managers (Serra Ferrer, Carles Rexach, Radomir Antic, Frank Rijkaard, Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova).
His final derby as a player was in 2015, although he was only on for the last two minutes after Luis Enrique sent him on as a substitute for Andrés Iniesta. That marked his 500th appearance in a Barça shirt, in a game that ended in a 2-0 win with goals from Neymar and Messi.
He did start his last derby at Camp Nou, in which he assisted one of the goals in a 5-1 romp. That was seven years ago. Now he’s back and looking to continue his excellent record, this time as coach.
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