When we asked Liverpool fans to share which player they wished could have stayed with Liverpool longer then they did, we received a lot of names. However, one name kept popping up the most and that was Xabi Alonso. So it seemed fitting to make him the feature for this week’s Liverpool Lore.
Alonso joined Liverpool in August 2004 from Real Sociedad for £10.5 million. He arrived as a crucial midfield piece alongside the great Steven Gerrard. Alonso brought an instant injection of class and technical prowess to the center of the park.
He was joined at the club by fellow Spaniard Luis Garcia as Rafa Benitez tried to imprint his own version of a rebuild at Anfield. Not unlike something we are seeing this summer.
Alonso’s ridiculous passing range proved to be a massive boost right away. His long ball passes that could land on a dime became regular viewing in his time with the Reds.
His 1st goal for the club came from a delicious free kick against Fulham. He didn’t score a lot for Liverpool, but when he did he made sure they were memorable as he scored from beyond the halfway line on multiple occasions.
An incredible feature about Alonso was he made everything look so smooth and easy. For comparisons sake, the current Liverpool squad have their own smooth passing Spaniard in Thiago. However, he does not come close to the all-around game that Alonso could deliver.
His 1st season on Merseyside hit a rough patch when Frank Lampard broke his ankle with a brutal tackle.
The Spaniard was able to return in time for the 2005 Champions League Quarterfinals and he made his mark as the Reds marched to Champions League glory with Alonso scoring in the Final and being a key piece.
Alonso and Gerrard quickly became the driving force for Liverpool as they formed on of the best midfield duos in England.
More silverware arrived in the form of the 2006 FA Cup where Alonso assisted Gerrard in the Final in route to a victory for the Reds.
His ability to seamlessly break up an opponent’s attack, transition to an offensive mindset and either spring a counter with a sublime pass or simply launch an audacious shot on goal made him nearly irreplaceable in the Liverpool lineup.
This was never more evident then his goal against Newcastle United. He calmly ripped the ball away and took his time before unloading a superb strike from his half for a memorable goal.
It was around this time that the Liverpool midfield received new faces in the form of Javier Mascherano and Lucas Leiva. As a result, things became crowded in the heart of the pitch for Rafa Benitez.
However, Alonso continued to perform whenever called upon and played a big role for the Reds as usual.
Things began turning sour in the summer of 2008 when Benitez became enamored with then Aston Villa captain and England midfielder Gareth Barry. Liverpool were offering between £10-£15 million for him.
Villa were holding out for £18 million and as such it was rumored Benitez would be okay selling Alonso to raise those funds.
While the deal for Barry eventually ended up falling apart, the lasting damage was done in the manager’s relationship with Alonso.
The 2008-09 season saw Liverpool push for a Premier League title that would eventually fall short. Alonso made 33 appearances including 27 starts as he was still a key cog for the team entering his prime at age 26.
However, all good things must come to an end and in the summer of 2009 Liverpool sanctioned his £32.5 million sale to Real Madrid.
His Liverpool contract ran through 2012, so it was believed the sale came down to the man who brought him to Anfield, Benitez. There was a difference in opinion of his role in the squad.
Alonso would go on to win multiple trophies in Madrid before moving to Bayern Munich to win a few more.
In the end, the Spaniard featured 210 times for Liverpool and had 38 goal contributions. Most of those were of the absolute highest quality.
His departure clearly left a hole in the squad as it began a downturn in form for the Reds that took years for them to fight back from.
If he had been allowed to stay through 2012, what kind of damage could they have done? He might have been able to play with Luis Suarez which is a tantalizing prospect. As it were, Liverpool fans never turned on him.
He is still beloved even now and there was not much animosity towards him when he left. More so at the club and its owners.
It was another example of a brilliant but shorter than hoped stint at Liverpool for a talented player. He made his mark while he pulled on the red shirt and went on to success wherever he played.
There have not been many midfielders since he left at Liverpool that can touch his technical and tactical brilliance.
Xabi Alonso, the Merseyside Maestro indeed.