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Street Taipan draws attention

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Who is he?

Midfield Maestro

Guess the identity of this player and stand to win courts prizes

Guess correctly the identity of any of the players featured and stand a chance of winning a Samsung DVD Player (DVDE350) worth $49 and a $200 COURTS TV voucher.

E-mail the name of any of the six players featured with your full name, NRIC IC number  (last four digits without the last letter) and contact details to tnpcontest@sph.com.sg by 6pm on May 13 Terms and conditions apply.

HIS EARLY YEARS

As a kid, he attracted interest from all over Spain, so it came as no surprise that he eventually joined Barcelona - one of the biggest clubs in La Liga.

He has been there ever since.

About 20 years on, he remains an integral part of a team regarded as one of the best the world has seen.

But it wasn't easy at first.

Raised in a small village with a population of less than 2,000, he was only 12 when he left home to pursue his footballing dream.

Journalists were reminded not to ask him to about his family or he would burst into tears.

His talent was obvious. He was the boy with excellent technique and vision.

Back then, his hero was compatriot Pep Guardiola, who was impressed by him, to say the least.

The Bayern Munich boss, who was capped 47 times by Spain, famously told his teammates: "Remember this day - the day you first played with him."

Then he pulled former Barca midfielder Xavi Hernandez aside and told him: "You're going to retire me. This lad is going to retire us all."

HIS STRENGTHS

He may stand at only 1.71 metres, but he compensates for his lack of height and size with speed of thought and a brilliant football brain.

His astute reading of the game, combined with his control, passing ability and composure give him all the attributes to be the midfield maestro he is today.

The influence he wields on the pitch is immense.

Well-respected former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson once said of him: "He's fantastic. He makes the team work.

"The way he finds passes, his movement and ability to create space is incredible."

The 31-year-old effortlessly carries his superb club form onto the international stage too.

He is widely regarded as one of the most important members of the all-conquering Spanish national team which won two European Championships and the World Cup between 2008 and 2012.

HIS WEAKNESSES

It's tough to find a chink in the armour of a player with such excellent all-round ability.

He behaves immaculately on and off the field, and is also known for his humility.

The lowest moment of his international career came during the 2014 World Cup, when Spain crashed out in the preliminary stage after finishing third in their group, behind Holland and Chile.

For so long, his country had relied on him to bail them out of trouble but, in Brazil, he looked as lost and lethargic as his teammates.

WHY HE'S FAMOUS

His glittering achievements include seven La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues, two European Championships and a World Cup.

His biggest moment for Spain came at the 2010 World Cup, when he scored the only goal in the final against Holland.


Age: 31

Height: 1.71m

Position: Midfielder

Country: Spain

International debut: May 27, 2006 (v Russia)

International games: 107

International goals: 13

 

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