Barcelona legend Xavi has said he will forever be in debt to Louis van Gaal, despite the Manchester United manager "humiliating" him during his time at the Nou Camp. The Spaniard, however, admitted that Van Gaal's personality was behind the spat with his close friend Victor Valdes, as the goalkeeper also has a "strong character".
The 35-year-old midfielder has never hidden his affection for Van Gaal, who handed a Barcelona debut to him as well as other iconic players such as Valdes himself, Carles Puyol and Andres Iniesta. LVG also sent Xavi an emotive message last summer when the Spaniard bid farewell to Barcelona ahead of a move to Qatari side Al-Sadd.
Speaking about the United gaffer during a wide-ranging interview with Marca, Xavi said: "I will remember him all my life, but in a good way.
"Van Gaal was a direct character. One day he would bury you, humiliate you in front of the group, and the next day he told me that I was [Zinedine] Zidane. He is like that.
"And with time, it is positive. With him I went from playing at Old Trafford to visiting the Alcoyano stadium, when he sent me down to Barca B. That is something I never lost. If you are with the first team, you assume you cannot be dropped. And an 18-year-old kid must, above all, be playing. Later you can come to the first team, and you just eat up the pitch."
Van Gaal has had a complicated relationship with Xavi's compatriots David de Gea and Valdes at United after sending them both to exile this season. De Gea's situation has taken a positive note after he renewed his contract following a collapsed move to Real Madrid, but Valdes remains frozen out following an alleged refusal to play with the Under 21 side last season.
Asked about the role played by Van Gaal in both sagas, Xavi said: "With Victor I don't know what happened.
"At the time, Van Gaal helped him to go to United, but something happened between them. They are two guys with very strong characters. With De Gea I am sure that it was all done face to face, without any deception. Van Gaal is very direct and honest. I prefer people like that. A trustworthy guy, which does not mean to say he cannot make mistakes."