Xavi equals Barca appearance record

MADRID - Spain midfielder Xavi made his 549th appearance for Barcelona in their 2-1 La Liga victory at home to Levante on Sunday, equalling the club record set by Migueli during the 1980s.

The 30-year-old was joined by Migueli in the centre circle at the Nou Camp before kick-off, and returned there after the final whistle to take the applause of the home fans.

"I'm very proud to be able to wear this shirt and to match a Barcelona legend like Migueli," Xavi told Spanish television.

"I want to continue defending these colours with all my heart and soul, and to win more titles. I am very pleased." Barcelona's coach, Pep Guardiola, told the post-match news conference: "What he has achieved is of gigantic proportions.

"I played 300 games, which I thought was a huge amount. Migueli played 549 and retired aged 38. Xavi has already played these 549 games and he is only 30, and has survived an operation on a cruciate ligament.

"It wouldn't surprise me if he reached 700 games."

Xavi joined the Catalan club aged 11 in 1991, and after progressing through the youth ranks he made his first-team debut under Louis van Gaal against Real Mallorca in the 1998 Spanish Super Cup.

He has gone on to play in 367 league matches and 110 Champions League games, winning five La Liga titles and two European Cups.

Xavi has also won 97 caps with the Spain team, helping them to win Euro 2008 - when he was nominated player of the tournament - and the 2010 World Cup.

The playmaker has been shortlisted along with Barca teammates Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta for the FIFA Ballon d'Or, which will be decided on January 10.

Former Barca defender Migueli made his debut in 1973 and retired 16 seasons later.