The rumours of Xabi Alonso’s imminent Anfield exit grow louder by the day and no self-respecting LFC supporter can ignore them anymore; they’re even drowning out talk of Javier Mascherano’s possible transfer to Barcelona. The prospect of Liverpool losing two key parts to the team’s “spine” isn’t one that brings a smile to a supporter’s face.
Yes, Xabi was instrumental in what was a cracking 08-09 season for the club, but he played like a man with a point to prove to the manager – there was a definite sense of “you were going to sell me to buy that?!”. I wonder how many fellow supporters felt that we were witnessing his last season in a red shirt – I certainly felt that way. Yes, he brought us precision passing and greater depth in midfield; but SG does that for us too. With his tirelessly aggressive, attacking style, Mascherano was the perfect foil to Xabi’s more “intellectual” form of play – and I have to say that Masch is my favourite of the two. No-one can deny that we most enjoyed the games in which our lads went for the opposition, attacking relentlessly and giving the other side no quarter, taking no prisoners.
But what we mustn’t forget is that every victory that we all relished – players and supporters alike (we’ll never forget Torres skinning Vidic in the 4-1 pasting we doled out to the Mancs) – was a team effort. Every player had a part to play in each and every match.
Nor must we forget Benítez’s tactical genius and his vision of how the team should work: like a machine, all parts of it working together towards a victorious outcome, silverware and titles. Take one part out, and you have another in reserve/on the bench that brings the same qualities (though not necessarily the same style of play) as the one that’s removed. The machine that is our team is flexible and adaptable because it has to be – not just game to game, but from season to season too.
Players come and go. We love them while they wear the red shirt, and we retain fond memories of their time with us when they leave. Sometimes they leave on bittersweet terms – Riise did; Owen did it; Alonso and/or Mascherano may well do too (my view is that we’ll lose Alonso to Real but Mascherano will stay).
Rafa has just about perfected the formula that will bring the Prem title to Anfield for the first time in 20 years (lord I hate saying that, but it’s a fact). That formula does not depend on any one player; no player is bigger than the team, and Rafa is the first person to embrace that idea.
And no-one needs reminding that there’s no club bigger than Liverpool. Whoever is signed to take a starting place in our midfield will be there because he wants to be, because he loves the club and loves his team – the love of the supporters will always follow.