Get your head up
“The first lesson I learned at Barcelona was to play with your head up. If you look around you only after you receive the ball, then how do you know what’s going on? But if you raise your head before you control your team-mate’s pass, you immediately notice all the space you have. You know where the nearest defender is and where your best options are to make a successful pass. I’ve had wonderful advice in my career, but that first piece is still the most important.”
Know your next move
“When I receive the pass, having already looked around me, I’m thinking about whether I’ve got time to turn or if I have a defender behind me. That’s the first thing. If I’m under pressure, I’m looking to play with one or two touches, or control the ball in such a way that my marker can’t intercept it. Basically, I’m looking to earn myself a few metres of space so that I’ll be in a position to not lose the ball and allow our team’s move to develop.”
Plan the pass
“The most important thing about playing a pass is that it reaches your team-mate in such a way that he won’t have problems in his next action. First and foremost, I’m looking for someone unmarked. You’re making life difficult for your team-mate if you pass to them when they have a defender touch-tight. I think about whether they’re left or right-footed, and pass accordingly, so the move can develop quickly. Ultimately, you want a pass to allow your team-mate to move forward.”
Weight of pass is key
“The speed of the ball is crucial to a successful pass. If you’re setting up a shot, you need to hit the ball harder, so your team-mate can re-use the pace on the ball. That’s especially true for a cross. A five metre-pass is different – the power can vary. It depends who’s around, so you must anticipate whether your team-mate will play with one touch or if they have time to control the ball. If they’re more likely to play first-time, I hit the pass more firmly, but still with my instep for accuracy.”
Pass and move
“It sounds easy, but to dominate these skills is difficult. It’s how I survive in a game. I’m not physical, strong or tall, so I’ve always got to look for free space from where I can create and have time to think, control the ball and look for the next pass. This means I have to run for miles in each game looking for that space, allowing my team-mates the chance to ‘roll out’ when I give them the ball. You must think about the game situation, and also about the team-mate to whom you’re passing.”
Learn to love an assist
“There’s no feeling in the world like giving an assist. When you give that final pass that ends in a goal, you think: ‘Bloody hell, this is fantastic.’ A pass that opens up the play to the wing with the following cross ending in a goal is also good, but above all, a pass in the middle of the field that breaks a defensive line and leaves your centre-forward one-on-one with the keeper is as good as it gets. My pass to Pedro in the 2011 Champions League Final was an incredible moment for me.”
Xavi wears the Adidas Samba Collection Predator, the boot that challenges players to ‘Hunt or be Hunted’. Follow @adidasfootball on Twitter: #allin or nothing
For more football tips see:
Andres Iniesta: How to boss the midfield
Playmaking the Xavi way
Pass with Xavi's precision: Drill one
Pass with Xavi's precision: Drill two
Pass with Xavi's precision: Drill three
Pass with Xavi's precision: Drill four
Pass with Xavi's precision: Drill five
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Andrew Murray is a freelance journalist, who regularly contributes to both the FourFourTwo magazine and website. Formerly a senior staff writer at FFT and a fluent Spanish speaker, he has interviewed major names such as Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah, Sergio Aguero and Xavi. He was also named PPA New Consumer Journalist of the Year 2015.
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