The Congressional Palace of Catalonia hosted this Monday evening the 66th edition of the Great Gala of Sport organised by Mundo Deportivo. President Josep Maria Bartomeu, who was accompanied by vice-presidents Jodri Cardoner, Carles Vilarrubí and Jordi Mestre, and the directors Eduard Coll, Joan Bladé, Manel Arroyo and Jodi Monés, represented FC Barcelona at the Gala.
Xavi Hernández, who just broke the 700 matches played barrier with FC Barcelona, was awarded the Extraordinary Trophy and used the occasion to reflect on Saturday's upset at the Camp Nou: "the defeat on Saturday was an accident – we are clear about what happened and we were very unlucky. We put in an extraordinary first half, but we weren’t so good in the second and paid a very high price for it. We have to put that behind us now, we need to look at ourselves and see what we have to improve – there is no more margin of error”.
Barça will thus be going into Wednesday’s Cup semi final, knowing they are for the first time this season not sitting at the top of the league and Xavi admitted: “it’s always better to be leading the table, but Atletico Madrid are only three points ahead – they are a strong side and will be in the mix right till the end of the season – as will Real Madrid, despite dropping points in Bilbao. It’s always good to play again straight after a bad result, so you can bounce right back. We are in the Cup smi-final and are excited about the chance of reaching another final”. First though, Martino’s side wil have to overcome Real Sociedad and Xavi was clear that the Basques “are a great side – it’s going to be key that we get a good result at home, so we can travel to Anoeta with the pressure off”.
Xavi also explained: “it’s very difficult to play for Barça because of how demanding it is, but I’ll try to reach 800 games. I feel good physically,” said the midfielder during the Gala. He also talked about Luis Aragonés, who passed away on Saturday. “He was my footballing father. I have a lot of appreciation for him and Spanish football owes him a lot.”
Neymar Jr was given the Best International Player Award, the trophy was received by Jordi Mestre. Tito Vilanova also picked up an award – the former FC Barcelona manager led the team to the league title last season. Jupp Heynckes, Bayern Munich’s former manager, handed Tito's award to Andoni Zubizarreta. The German also gave Barça’s football director a gift and a letter from Bayern Munich for Vilanova. Heynckes also said, “Tito you are a great champion of sport and life. In me you have a friend for life.”