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Xavi retires from Spanish national team

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - Xavi Hernandez, Spain's leading playmaker in its run of three major titles, has retired from international duty after a disappointing World Cup.

Flanked by fellow Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta, Xavi was the key component of Spain's tiki-taka passing style during its unprecedented run of winning the World Cup in 2010 and two European championships in 2008 and 2012.

''I have taken the decision to leave the selection,'' the 34-year-old Xavi said. ''I think my time has ended.''

He was voted the best player of the 2008 European championship. In that final he made the critical pass to Fernando Torres to score the winning goal in its 1-0 win over Germany.

''It has been a marvelous time, a fantastic time for me, and I am proud of being here so many years and for all the victories,'' said Xavi. ''My time is over. I wish (the rest of the team) the best. From now on I will be another fan of the national team.''

Xavi said that he had planned to leave the team after helping it defend the European title in 2012, but Spain coach Vicente del Bosque persuaded him to stay on through the World Cup in Brazil.

But Spain flopped at this summer's World Cup, losing its first two games and subsequently exiting the competition in the group stage. Xavi said being benched for that second match against Chile was key in his decision to retire from international duty.

''We have lost a one-of-a-kind player,'' said del Bosque. ''He has been the man who was key to our style of play that has brought us so much success. We will miss him both on and off the pitch.''

Xavi made 133 appearances for Spain, earning 100 victories.

He said he will continue to play for Barcelona, with two years remaining on his current contract.

Xavi said that he had come close to leaving Barcelona after former coach Gerardo Martino overlooked him in the final game of last season when Barcelona lost the Spanish league title to Atletico Madrid. The arrival of former player Luis Enrique to replace Martino played a part in Xavi staying.

''I finished last seasons a little disappointed,'' said Xavi. ''I experienced two of my biggest disappointments, both on a personal and collective level, maybe the worst of my career... That's when I decided, abruptly, to tell the club that it would be best to leave.

''(But) I went on holiday and spoke with (sports director Andoni) Zubizarreta and Luis Enrique, and they made me see that I could still be important, useful and competitive.''

Barcelona host Elche in the opening game of the new season on August 24.

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2016
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved

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