Xavi receives the aerial photo of the Camp Nou / MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Xavi receives a signed shirt from Iniesta and Josep Maria Bartomeu / MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

At an institutional event fit for the player that has worn the Barça shirt the most times, the Auditori 1899 was packed on Wednesday afternoon for the formal farewell to Xavi Hernández, who on May 21 announced that he was leaving the club after seventeen seasons in the first team.

The midfielder was surrounded by family, friends, colleagues and former colleagues, including his close friend Carles Puyol, representatives of the other sports teams, including Víctor Tomás and Juan Carlos Navarro, and several directors, led by current president Josep Maria Bartomeu. In an emotional speech, the first team captain commented on much he would like to leave the club with another Champions League medal in his possession and that “I hope this is not goodbye, but more a case of see you later … I arrived here 25 years ago and never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the things I would experience. I am the one who should be grateful. I am so happy.”It's me who should be grateful. I'm so happy

Some 120 reporters were in the room to hear him add that “the nicest thing I’m taking away with me are so many wonderful friendships.” He went on to name a long string of different people that have played a role in his career, with especially warm words for his former youth coach Joan Vilà, current manager Luis Enrique, and former team-mates like Oleguer, Jorquera and Marc Crosas. And not forgetting two late managers, Tito Vilanova and Luis Aragonés, both of whom had such an impact on him as a footballer.

He also thanked his family, including his wife Nuria, adding that “there are not two of us going to Qatar but three” in reference to the recent announcement that the couple are expecting their first child.

“Thank you to Barça and everyone who makes Barça possible” he concluded. “I’m eternally grateful.” The event ended with Xavi being presented with a spectacular photo of the Camp Nou on the day that the fans unfurled a huge banner in dedication to him. The image shows the buildings of Barcelona in the background and symbolises how the whole city wishes him all the very best on the next stage of his footballing journey.  

Tears and smiles

Xavi Hernández was not the only person to appear on the stage. Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu introduced the event by describing Xavi’s extraordinary work-rate and love for the club, and how the doors to the Camp Nou will always be open to him should he wish to return. “You have caused so many different emotions” he said. “And this is the day when the club wishes to thank you for everything you have done and tell you that we hope to see you back here very soon”.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when the player with whom Xavi’s career has been most intimately connected, Andrés Iniesta, stared speaking. “Captain, team-mate friend” he said. “It’s hard to believe that when we start training next season, you won’t be here with us … It has been a privilege to play by your side. Thank you for thinking about the team rather than yourself. Thank you Xavi for everything that you have given us.”

Video tribute

There was also a special surprise in store. A video was shown that featured messages from Xavi’s current team-mates, such as Iniesta, Busquets, Messi and Pedro, along with former trainers and players that grew up with him at La Masia, including David Bermudo, David Prats and Antonio Hidalgo, as well as his relatives from his hometown of Terrassa. All of them thanked him for so many years of wonderful football and friendship, and wished him all the very best for the future. “Thank you for making us feel so proud of you” said his father Joaquim at the end of the movie. And the tears started flowing again. A fitting tribute to one of the most dearly loved players to have ever worn the famous Barça jersey.: