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Xavi Simons talks Gavi, Balde, La Masia, Koeman, Neymar, Messi, Barcelona exit

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Photo by JEROEN PUTMANS/ANP/AFP via Getty Images

Over the years, Barcelona’s La Masia academy has produced some of the best, most talented footballers the game has seen. Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets led the way, while the likes of Gavi, Ansu Fati, and Alejandro Balde are carrying the torch forward now.

During this time, there have also been a few players who have slipped out of the hands of the Blaugrana. And one such talented footballer, who is currently thriving in the Netherlands with PSV Eindhoven, is Xavi Simons.

The 19-year-old versatile attacking midfielder and joined Barça’s La Masia youth setup in 2010 and was widely tipped to be the next big thing to emerge out of the academy ranks.

However, in 2019, Simons opted to leave Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer, in a move that ruffled some feathers.

There had been talks of a potential return when his contract with PSG was running out, but nothing materialised and he signed for PSV.

Xavi Simons, who has 13 goals and six assists for the Dutch outfit this season, spoke with MARCA in a recent interview and opened up on his time at Barcelona, his experience in La Masia as well as the reasons for his exit.

On his decision to join Barcelona’s academy aged 9: “I was fulfilling a dream. My mother got me to train there for a couple of days. It went well and I stayed for many years.”

On how he dealt with being talked about and scrutinised since a young age: “In the end I am lucky to have a mother and an older brother who have always supported me. I’m still the same kid who played football in Alicante.”

On what he learned at La Masia: “I learned not to take any day for granted. Many children pass through La Masia and you always have to be alert. I have learned many things and I am very grateful, but now my path continues here.”

On his friendship with Gavi and Alejandro Balde: “I met Gavi while living at La Masia, I’ve always had a very good relationship with him, but he was a year younger. I played with Alejandro Balde, who also has an older brother, like me. We have been very good friends all our lives and we still have a lot of contact. He was very fast.”

On whether La Masia leaves a mark: “Yes. I’m very grateful to all of them. I have learned a lot during those years. I have experienced good and bad things. I have a lot of memories.”

On if he thought Gavi and Balde would make it big: “We were a bunch of kids. In the end, very few make it. You could see from a young age that Alejandro was very fast. With Gavi, I have coincided little because he is one year younger. Many teammates pass by your side. Getting to the top is very complicated.”

On looking up to greats like Neymar and Lionel Messi: “You have those players at the top and the desire is to play with them one day. Being and playing with the best in the world is very special for everyone. Now I played with them, but in another team.”

On his decision to leave Barcelona: “In the end, it ended for ‘x’ reasons, for a couple of things that I will tell you about in due course. I am very grateful to Barcelona. I will always be very fond of the club and the people. My family still lives there. It is a very important city for me.”

On Neymar helping him at PSG: “Being able to speak Spanish, French, and Dutch, I could almost speak to everyone. Neymar, knowing me since I was a kid, helped me a lot. We had a very good relationship. He looked after me like a son practically. I will be eternally grateful to him.”

On whether he interacted with Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman at Barcelona: “No. When he arrived I had left Barcelona. I am looking forward to playing for him in the national team and hopefully, I can win titles.”

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