After much speculation and media frenzy, Xabi Alonso’s transfer to Real Madrid has finally been completed. Some suspect that Liverpool’s title hopes go with him, but I disagree – he will be sorely missed, no doubt, but it is a hole we can fill. He is certainly not easily replaceable, some might say irreplaceable, but Liverpool has enough central midfield talent to cope without him, especially with the Aquilani deal completed subject to a medical.
Liverpool, however, are not the subject of this article. Today, I’m thinking back on why Alonso has been such a central character in our team, and why he is so highly valued by Real Madrid – a team of Galacticos. Brought from Real Sociedad, he was a talented prospect, but certainly not the superstar he has become. He grew in the hearts of fans, and had become a firm favourite and loyal scouser. I for one am sad that we will not hear the chant “Xabi Alonso!” clap clap clap clap clap “Xabi Alonso!” ring out around Anfield anymore (at least not regularly).
I still think there is no better passer of the ball in the world than he – the pass master – and no-one will quickly forget the 2 goals scored from his own half. Not only has he scored some memorable long range goals, but he has popped with a few vital ones as well; none more so than his penalty in the 2005 Champions League final. When his initial shot was saved, he ran in and smashed home the rebound before letting his head drop in horror of what had almost become. A true professional – and it goes without saying how highly regarded he was, given that he was trusted with that penalty and not Steven Gerrard.
Many thought his penultimate season would be his last, and Rafa Benitez’s flirting with Gareth Barry put no stop to speculation about his departure from Anfield, but true to form, the Spaniard stepped his game up another level and delivered arguably his best seasonal performance in a red shirt, enough to catch the interest of Real Madrid, and enough to quickly change Benitez’s mind about finding a Barry-esque replacement for the underperforming Alonso.
With a string of sterling performances, all Liverpool supporters hoped the transfer rumours were unfounded. However, he handed in a formal transfer request and it was not to be, and whilst the lure of the Kop and premiership title glory may have been strong, his homeland’s calling was stronger, and we can forgive a Spaniard for turning down another year at Anfield for a few years at Spain’s most successful club. Following in the summer footsteps of high profile signings Christiano Ronaldo and Kaka, Xabi Alonso is well within his league and has earned his right to the title of Galactico. A fantastic player and terrific servant, I wish him all the best for his Real Madrid career – and hopefully, we will have the pleasure of meeting him again in one of Europe’s finest clashes. Goodbye Xabi, and thank you.