Xavi Hernandez backs Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo to win Ballon d’Or

Xavi Hernandez has extended an olive branch to Cristiano Ronaldo by saying the Real Madrid star “has the numbers” to win this year’s Ballon d’Or.

The former Barcelona midfielder unintentionally started a war of words with Ronaldo in September when he said that Ronaldo cannot be compared to his former teammate Lionel Messi. Ronaldo retorted by bragging about the fact he’s won the Ballon d’Or on three occasions and mocking Xavi’s decision to move to Qatari side Al-Sadd for the final years of his professional career.

However, Xavi has not risen to the Portuguese international’s comments, instead of backing him as the primary candidate to be crowned as football’s best player for the fourth time.

“Cristiano has the numbers to win this year’s Ballon d’Or, having won the Champions League and the Euros [with Real Madrid and Portugal],” he said at the ASPIRE4SPORT Congress & Exhibition in Amsterdam.

“But I also think that it’ll be very competitive, because Messi will be there, of course.”

The dispute between the two players started when Xavi was recently asked to compare Ronaldo and Messi in an interview with Cadena SER.

“Ronaldo is a player of his time,” he said, “but the problem is that there is another player who has been pretty much the best player in history.

“Ronaldo is extraordinary but compared to Messi, for me and for everyone who likes football, there can be no comparisons.”

Asked about the comments, Ronaldo replied: “I couldn’t care less about what Xavi says about me, he plays in Qatar or I don’t even know where.

“He’s won every collective trophy, including a World Cup and the European Championship, but he’s never won a Ballon d’Or.”

In August, Ronaldo was named UEFA Best Player in Europe ahead of Madrid teammate Gareth Bale and Atletico Madrid star Antoine Griezmann.

This year’s Ballon d’Or will be voted on exclusively by journalists after France Football ended its six-year association with FIFA in September.

That relationship had seen the Ballon d’Or and FIFA’s World Player of the Year combined for the last six years, with journalists and national team captains and coaches voting on the world’s best player.

FIFA have not announced their plans for the World Player of the Year award going forward.

“I Thought Louis Van Gaal Was An Idiot” – Xavi

The midfielder admits that it took a while for him to be convinced by the quality of the Manchester United coach and expressed sympathy for his old team-mate Victor Valdes

Barcelona icon Xavi has revealed that he thought Louis van Gaal was an “idiot” when he first took over at Barcelona.

The Dutch coach guided Barca to two league titles, a Copa del Rey and the Uefa Super Cup during his first spell at the Catalan side.

But while the midfielder admits he had initial reservations over his coaching methods, he is full of praise for the current Manchester United boss.

“After two days of training under him, I thought, ‘Who is this idiot?'” he told ESPN. 

“After one week, though, I thought, ‘He’s right.’ He’ll always be in my heart, Louis van Gaal.

“He is a good person, a very good trainer. He has a very strong character, but he’s calm in the Premier League because there’s less pressure. He’s much calmer than when he was at Barca or Bayern Munich.

“He’s honest, methodical and a real perfectionist. He’s very demanding, he’s strict and he wants to achieve the highest levels possible.”

Xavi’s former Barcelona and Spain team-mate Victor Valdes is currently going through a hard time under Van Gaal, having been dropped from the United squad and criticised by the coach.

Valdes has been told he could be fined if he attends the club’s training ground before the first team has left and Xavi hopes his friend can find a way out of the situation.

“[Van Gaal and Valdes] are two strong characters, but it’s a difficult situation for Victor. 

“Let’s hope he finds a solution soon. I’m sad for him. He’s a great professional, a good person. He’s training, he’s working hard. He’ll return to football. It’s better for Victor to be playing football.”

The 35-year-old, currently playing for Al Sadd, says he has been surprised by the playing style that Jose Mourinho has adopted throughout his coaching career as it is very different to the one he adhered to during his time as Van Gaal’s assistant at Barcelona. 

“He was the assistant coach, someone who understood the philosophy of Barca and who shared many of the same characteristics as Van Gaal. He was very respected by the players,” he added.

“He trained us sometimes alone at Barca B and he was excellent. I’m surprised that he became known for another type of football, more defensive, because he wasn’t like that with us.”

Manchester United Move Appealed To Me – Xavi

The Spanish legend joined Al Sadd from Barcelona in the summer but he has now revealed that he would have been open to a move to Old Trafford or Liverpool earlier in his career

Xavi admits he would have been open to a move to Manchester United or Liverpool during his time atBarcelona.

The veteran midfielder joined Al Sadd in the summer, calling time on a glittering 24-year spell at the club he joined as a child.

However, he has now revealed that he would have liked to have experienced the Premier League, and says a move to United would have had particular appeal.

 “To be honest, the Premier League is a big attraction for any player. It’s brilliant – the stadiums, the pitches, the fans and how they live football over there – it’s all incredible over there”, he told Eurosport.

“There are many great sides like Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool. If I had to select one, it would have to be a club with a great history; maybe Manchester United or Liverpool.

“I know that there are clubs who have emerged quite recently, like Manchester City for example, but United is my favourite historically-speaking.”

Xavi made over 700 appearances for Barca, winning La Liga eight times and the Champions League four times.