On the 16th of September 1998 Xavi Hernández made his FC Barcelona debut in the Champions League against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Curiously enough, the Barça coach at the time, Louis Van Gaal, is now in charge at the English club and his assistant is Ryan Giggs, the man who up until Tuesday held the record for the most ever appearances in Europe’s top club competition. Sixteen years after that debut in Manchester, the FC Barcelona captain reached a total of 151 matches in the European Cup, equalling the legendary United midfielder’s record.
Xavi started the game against Apoel in Nicosia on the bench but in the 62nd minutes he was given his chance, coming on to replace Ivan Rakitic. That was the moment he drew level with Giggs and now he is well placed to become the player with most appearances in the competition including qualifying rounds.
Xavi and Ryan Giggs lead the all time appearance list with 151 appearances – they are followed by Iker Casillas in third place (146), Paulo Maldini (139) and Clarence Seedorf (131). The game against Apoel means that Xavi is now the player who has made most appearances in the Champions League since the new format was introduced back in 1992. Without qualifying rounds, Xavi has played 145 matches, one more than Iker Casillas who could equal him on Wednesday evening against Basel.