This article has really pushed me to the brink.
On Thursday morning, it was announced Liverpool legend Xabi Alonso would be retiring at the end of the season with Bayern Munich. The news sent most supporters on social media into a state of paralysis, including me.
Just stop and think about the Spaniard’s tremendous services to not just Liverpool FC, but far beyond that.
The 2004/05 season marked the beginning of Alonso’s illustrious career. Yes, before then he’d been at Real Sociedad – but no clubs around the world had really recognised the potential in him then.
Rafael Benitez’s arrival at the Anfield helm in June 2004 marked the start of a new era on Merseyside. Out went Gerard Houllier – the man renowned for his close relationship with the players. In came the ‘frosty’ Spaniard.
The arrival of Benitez also inspired the signings of Djbril Cisse, Antonio Nunez, Josemi, Luis Garcia followed by Xabi Alonso. There were some doubts about whether he could complement a midfield boasting Steven Gerrard, Luis Garcia, Dietmar Hamann and Harry Kewell.
But those who doubted him from the first minute have been left looking as idiots. He immediately gained an impression as a midfield maestro who could create defence splitting passes – and his aptitude for the game was second to none.
He made an impressive 32 appearances in his first season despite suffering a broken ankle – and arguably his most vital contribution for the club came in the 2005 Champions League final, where his penalty brought the Reds on terms.
As the Latinamerican influence growed on the side, so did the midifeld. Liverpool went from a midfield that once had Salf Diao in it – to boasting one of the best spines in Europe in 2006-2009.
His presence in midfield inspired confidence in the likes of Momo Sissoko and Javier Mascherano – with the latter often involved in unheralded work in a deeper role. His service too, was top-drawer. He created a plethora of chances and goals for the likes of Peter Crouch, Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt, Steven Gerrard (who featured behind Torres under Benitez) and Ryan Babel.
Not only did he have all these midfield qualities that made him world-class, but also had plenty of trophies to show for it. He may have only won 4 at Liverpool, but during his career at Real Madrid and Bayern, he has a remarkable glut of success both internationally and at club level. Here are ALL of them:
- FA Community Shield: 2006
- UEFA Champions League: 2004–05
- UEFA Super Cup: 2005
- La Liga: 2011–12
- Copa del Rey: 2010–11, 2013–14
- Supercopa de España: 2012
- UEFA Champions League: 2013–14
- Bundesliga: 2014–15, 2015–16
- DFB-Pokal: 2015–16
- DFL-Supercup: 2016
- FIFA World Cup: 2010
- UEFA European Championship: 2008, 2012
- Spanish Player of the Year: 2003
- Premier League Goal of the Month: November 2004
- FIFA FIFPro World XI: 2011, 2012
- La Liga Best Midfielder: 2012
- UEFA Euro Team of the Tournament: 2012
- UEFA Champions League Team of the Season: 2013-14
- Gold Medal of the Royal Order of Sporting Merit: 2011
That’s world class for you. If Alonso was Paul Pogba’s age with that many honours when he came to Liverpool, he’d have been worth at least £110m in today’s market.
Unfortunately, good things come to a (stupid) end as they say. In 2008, Benitez attempted to erase his genius from 4 years ago when he tried to force the Spaniard out of the club in exchange for Gareth Barry. Consequently, it made Alonso unsettled – despite coming a fingertip’s length to a title in 2008/09, he left the club.
And who can blame him? I’d have been pissed if I were in his shoes. Don’t listen to the 1 in 1,000,000 cynics who say that he left for the money. Steven Gerrard, in his biography, openly stated that he loved the club, players and fans; it was his strained relations with the manager which lead to his eventual move in August 2009.
It was no surprise that a decline then followed since. Benitez’s puzzling replacement in Alberto Aquilani then lead to a 7th place finish in 2009/10 – since Xabi’s departure, we’ve only won one trophy. How we’ve missed his influence since.
I mean, what’s not to like about him? He’s unbelievably sexy. If your missus doesn’t want to sh*g him, she’s got a chip on her shoulder!
My favourite picture of all always has to be these two. Because it just symbolises his affection for Liverpool. Nobody sees him as a dishonest and backstabbing traitor to the club – because he always put Liverpool Football Club before anybody/anything else. He is not the type of player who would hand in a transfer request. His deep bonds with the city remain intact – and the love story from the fans continue.
What would complete a compelling combination behind the scenes at Liverpool would be Alonso coming in to help coach with Jurgen Klopp. He has experience of European & foreign football, which could come in handy for next season potentially. Sentiment can easily get in the way, but every single Reds supporter would die to see Gerrard, Alonso and Klopp lift that Premier League trophy – even if it’s not in the coveted LFC shirt.
There is nothing that cannot be a possibility if he comes to unite with the club once more behind the scenes following his departure. It’d definitely be welcomed – and I can see him playing a pivotal role in Jurgen Klopp’s exciting plans to develop this exciting project next season.
Adios Xabi. Gracias para todo. Simpere en nuestros corazones. Nunca caminaras solo. You’ll Never Walk Alone.