i said Spanish and European champions Real Madrid do not want to play beautiful football like their bitter rivals Barcelona.
Madrid swept LaLiga and Champions League honours last season but Zinedine Zidane’s men have struggled this term, already 16 points behind runaway leaders Barca and Lionel Messi in the league.
Former Barcelona midfielder Xavi believes Madrid lack the culture of beautiful football at the Santiago Bernabeu, highlighting Jose Mourinho’s time in charge from 2010-13.
“Barcelona is the final exam for a player,” Xavi – who now plays for Al Sadd in Qatar – told El Pais. “It is the most difficult club and the most demanding in the world. Madrid do not play so beautifully. At the Bernabeu, if a defender hoofs the ball into the stand it is fine. That is the culture. The fans applaud.
“At the Camp Nou you knock the ball into the stand and the grumbles are so loud it is negative. Since [Johan] Cruyff’s time.”
Xavi added: “Mourinho’s Madrid hit the ball direct over the top. Mourinho told his players never to stop the ball, to play quickly and then [Angel] Di Maria, Cristiano [Ronaldo] or [Karim] Benzema would break. Now they do it with [Gareth] Bale. They don’t want to play football.
“Madrid break apart, seven players attack and Casemiro stays back on his own to cover the centre,” the 37-year-old continued. “[Barca midfielder Sergio] Busquets cannot do that as even I am faster than he is. Casemiro is super fast, but he has trouble with everything else as he has not worked on it.
“He has other characteristics, is more defensive, makes more tackles, covers more ground, but he does not dominate space-time. If you had started with Casemiro aged 12, 13, 15, then he would have that.”
Xavi was also critical of the individual aspect of some of Madrid’s players after being asked about Isco and Marco Asensio.
“These youngsters need to know what [former Spain coach] Luis Aragones told me,” he said. “Do you want to play pretty football or good football? I don’t want to name names, but in La Liga many players have impressed and then disappeared without trace. They do tricks, but for what? Messi does not do tricks, never. Messi goes for the kill. Messi is good football, and so good at the same time that it becomes pretty.”
Messi has upstaged Cristiano Ronaldo this season, at least in LaLiga, scoring a league-best 16 goals, while his Madrid foe has only managed four.
“Tactically he [Messi] understands everything,” Xavi said. “It is embarrassing that he is compared with anybody else. Messi is aware of everything — space, time, where his teammates are, and the opponents.”
On Ronaldo – who has played more centrally in recent years – Xavi added: “Cristiano cannot play in the centre. It does not suit him.”