Alongside the likes of Andres Iniesta and Iker Casillas he has turned around the label of the Spanish national side from perennial underachievers to champions.

"He has won my affection as a person, whilst for his football there are very few who cannot say he is a great player," said Spain boss Vicente del Bosque.

"It is impossible to know who is the best player in the history of the Spanish national team, but that Xavi is one of the best is not in doubt. In the past there were some extraordinary players, but I cannot say who is better than others."

However, the 34-year-old's performance in the world and European champions 5-1 thrashing at the hands of the Netherlands as they opened the defence of the World Cup was further evidence that his time at the top may also now be in the past.

"It was the toughest defeat of my career," he admitted afterwards.

"It was a terrible game, a debacle. In the second-half we did everything badly.

"The only positive is that there is still a chance, that all is not lost yet and despite this body blow we can still qualify."

There could yet be redemption. Xavi was also questioned for his performances early on in the 2012 European championships, but Del Bosque remained faithful to his loyal servant and was rewarded with his best display of the tournament as Spain retained their title in style with a 4-0 thrashing of Italy in the final.

However, two years on, he has had another two demanding seasons with Barcelona and Spain in his tiring legs and is seemingly coming to the end of his career with both.

His friend and old teammate Luis Enrique has taken charge at Barcelona, but refused to confirm when he was presented in front of the media that Xavi will stay on as a player with the Catalans next season, saying only that they would discuss his future after the World Cup.

Barca's record all-time appearance holder with a CV that includes 25 trophies at club and international level will not be short of lucrative offers at a less demanding level.

Qatari club Al Sadd are reportedly willing to offer him 8.3 million euros net ($11.2 million) a year to join his old international teammate Raul Gonzalez.

However, the man who handed Xavi his debut and was the architect of Spain's downfall in Salvador on Friday believes he still has the magic to conduct games at the highest level.

"Xavi still has a lot of football left in him," said Dutch and former Barca boss Louis Van Gaal.

"He is still a reference for his team and his country. You just have to see a game in which he is not there. You notice his absence. Xavi always dictates the rhythm of the game and that is very important for Barca and Spain."

Del Bosque's loyal streak means Xavi is likely to get at least one last chance on the international stage to impose that rhythm in Spain's must win clash with Chile on Wednesday.