He was the most famous Dutch player who never played a senior pro game in his life. Xavi Simons. Son of Reginald Simons (a once upon a time striker for Fortuna Sittard, FC Den Haag and Kyoto Purple Sanga) and named after the current Barca coach. (Xavi, for the slower ones amongst us…).
Xavi is born in Amsterdam, where his dad had a brief career as Ajax youth coach, but the family moved to Spain to give Xavi his chance at one of the biggest clubs on the planet. Barcelona of course.
The midfielder with the vision of his name sake and the looks of a blond Gullit-like demi-god made his way into the hearts and minds of football fans the world over and his reputation became bigger than his actual football exploits.
Last season, at PSG, he had 10 benchwarming matches before he made his debut as a 17 year old. He got 1 minute vs Strasbourg, replacing Ander Herrera. The only thing the less switched on ones saw was that his hair style resembled one Carlos Valderrama. This month, he finally made his true debut in the first team of Paris St Germain.
His coach sent him onto the pitch with the aim to change something, force something. This time, it wasn’t symbolic. Not a sub turn to give him a signal. They were trailing vs Peter Bosz’ Lyonnais and there were only 20 minutes left. Something needed to happen.
And these were minutes he earned, based on his performances in the French Cup games, his games in the U19 team and his training efforts with the first team.
Simons didn’t hide in the Lyon game. He wan’t on the pitch for a minute or he passed the ball to Mbappe with a crafty backheel flick. He also saw a tremendous through ball option for the French forward but his pass was just not weighty enough. He played with energy and intent and demonstrate a silky touch in confined spaces. He even won a header one time, and he’s not the tallest of players. After the match, coach Pocchetino complimented him on his game.
So yes, he does exist and yes he can play. We have seen many clips of him on Youtube and social media and it felt like this 10-year old blond kid could walk on water. When he turned 16, he decided to go to PSG. He didn’t see a plan for him at Barca anymore and gambled on PSG.
Initially his coach at Paris St Germain said to the media that he was training well, had a good personality and could have a great career at the highest level. This is a friendly way of saying: “I am not going to use him too much…”. And we all need to keep on realising that Xavi Simons indeed is still a year younger than Gravenberch (to name another example), or Ihattaren. And… his contract in Paris ends after this season. With Neymar, Mbappe, Messi and Di Maria at his club, Xavi might have to be patient, should he stay in Paris. It is now time for him to make the right choice. He needs to start playing now. He needs to be at a club where his new coach will treat him like Pep treated Foden, or Ten Hag treated Timber.
Now, it is not the Instragram clips that will determine how good he is, but the minutes he’ll play in a first team somewhere.
Barcelona has already winked at him again. In the youth academy in Spain, he made an impression by seeing the forward pass way earlier than his peers. He is not only named after the current Barca coach, he also plays on his position. As the controlling mid, he was the engine that made all the youth teams click. A lot of the tiki-taka attackes on the internet started with him. His technical skills and his blonde locks made him a popular topic amongst football followers.
Even before he turned 16, he was used as the figure head in a Barca campaign aimed at mending the relationship between La Masia and the first team. It really hurt the club and the socios when his exit was announced in 2019.
Some people think Simons went for the money. But in truth, PSV presented him with a better plan. The perspective for Barca youngsters wasn’t great under chairman Baromeu and there were some many different cliques and groups that resulted in a culture were youth coaches feared for their jobs if they didn’t get results. Under coaches Valverde and Setien, the door to the first team was firmly locked.