CURITIBA, Brazil (AP) — With his Barcelona career seemingly coming to a close, there is a prevailing sentiment that Xavi Hernandez's time with Spain is ending as well.
Perhaps no player has been as important to Spain's dominance over the last six years as Xavi, so the sense of an era ending was even greater when the 34-year-old playmaker watched from the bench as the defending champion was eliminated from the World Cup with a 2-0 loss to Chile.
Xavi hasn't spoken publicly since Spain's loss, but the buildup to Monday's final Group A match against Australia is being treated as a send-off for him.
"In the history of football, there is no other player like Xavi Hernandez and a big part of Spain's success should be credited to him," Spain midfielder Santi Cazorla said. "We've enjoyed playing with him a lot and hopefully we continue to. He'll always be a special player."
Xavi featured in the opening 5-1 loss to the Netherlands but was subsequently benched in favor of Pedro Rodriguez against Chile. That experiment didn't work as the Spain team looked old, tired, and out of ideas.
"He didn't play against Chile because we wanted our game to be more attacking, and we wanted to push deeper up front," coach Vicente del Bosque explained. "Xavi wasn't at fault against the Dutch."
Yet Xavi looked on wide-eyed against Chile as Spain again failed to conjure up its trademark passing game that he was one of the main architects of since the team's 2008 European Championship victory.
The question now is whether Del Bosque returns to Xavi against Australia or whether the player with 133 caps has already played his last game for his country.
"We know what he means to the team and to our country, but no one has told us anything," midfielder Koke said of the questions surrounding whether Xavi's future. "It's a difficult question because there will only be one Xavi, for what he has achieved and for what he symbolizes."
The uncertainty regarding Xavi's international future comes as his 16-year long career at Barcelona appears to be coming to a close, with reports in Spain suggesting he is set to move to Qatar next season.
Xavi has won 26 trophies for club and country in a 15-year career, including three Champions League and six Spanish league titles with Barcelona.
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