March 24, 1998, marks the 15th anniversary of Xavi Hernández’s first appearance for the first team. It was in the Copa Catalunya, and the venue was the Camp d’Esports, home of Lleida, where the home side’s line-up included FCB’s current manager, Tito Vilanova. Xavi played all ninety minutes and helped see his side through to the final with a 2-1 win.

Managed by Mourinho

There were other curiosities that day. José Mourinho, now the boss at Real Madrid, was in charge of a Barça side that featured mainly reserves, and it was he rather than head coach Louis Van Gaal who spoke to the press after the game, saying “the boys all identify with and believe in Louis’ philosophy, which shows how much influence he has over the players”.

Goals from Jofre and Vilanova

The FCB team that day included Carles Puyol (who had made his first team debut in the Copa Catalunya in 1996/97), Pizzi, Ciric, Ferrón and Jofre, the Barça C player who scored both Barcelona’s goals that night at the Camp d’Esports. Tito Vilanova, who came on in the second half, scored for the home side. Who would have guessed what futures lay ahead of the protagonists of that game on a cold evening in Lleida!

665 official matches, 757 in total

Since that March 24, Xavi Hernández has gone on to play 757 matches for Barça, 665 in official tournaments. He made his official debut on August 18, 1998 in a 2-1 defeat at Mallorca in the Spanish Supercup, and it was he who scored his side’s only goal. He has scored 89 goals in total for FCB, 78 in official tournaments, and has won 23 major titles in his glittering career.

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