Which former Liverpool players are you most looking forward to seeing on Sunday?
On Sunday, Anfield will welcome back a number of its former heroes for the much talked-about charity match! Chief among them will be a duo of Spanish stars, who have both enjoyed a lasting rapport with our supporters.
Midfielder Xabi Alonso and goalkeeper Jose Manuel “Pepe” Reina – both now playing in the Bundesliga for German giants Bayern Munich – seemingly can’t wait for their long overdue returns to Merseyside.
Alonso, 33, left the Reds for Real Madrid in 2009, having spent five years at Anfield playing under Rafael Benitez. During that time he won both the Champions League and the FA Cup, as well as the UEFA Super Cup and the Community Shield.
He played a decisive role in our famous triumph in Istanbul, scoring the all-important equaliser in the 3-3 draw with AC Milan – firing high into the net after his initial effort from the penalty spot had been saved by the goalkeeper.
Reina, 32, joined us in 2005, and played almost 400 games before leaving on loan for Napoli in 2013. He returned briefly last summer before making a permanent move to Germany.
He had a day to remember as he helped the Reds win the FA Cup in 2006, making several crucial saves in the penalty shoot-out, while he was also part of the team that lifted the League Cup at Wembley six years later.
Speaking ahead of the game, here’s what the pair told our official website:
On Sunday, you will both return to Anfield. How excited are you?
Alonso: For five years I haven’t had the chance to go back there. I spent five great years there and have great memories of those years. We had wonderful nights at Anfield. Of course it’s going to be a special game for us and Stevie, and it’s for a great cause. It has all of the ingredients to be special for everyone.
Reina: I’m very much looking forward to it. It’s a great opportunity to say ‘goodbye’ but also ‘hello’ back. It’s going to be a great atmosphere and a great match between friendly faces. It’s going to be a great day.
What does the city of Liverpool mean to you?
Alonso: Of course, Liverpool is a special city for me. It’s where I started to become a man. Until I got there, I was living with my parents, so it’s where I had to start doing things on my own and settle down. From the first day, everyone was so kind to me and really friendly. My first son was born there, so it’s always going to be special. We will always have that special link with the city and the club, because the club is so important in the city – it’s like a religion. You feel it when you get there.
Reina: It’s a great city for me, but it was also my home for eight years. One of my kids was born there; three of them have been raised in Liverpool. And I was treated like one of them. For me, it’s always going to be home.
You are going to play in different teams, aren’t you?
Alonso: I’m glad I’m in Stevie’s team because I’m pretty sure Carra will be a terrible manager! So I’d rather be in Stevie’s team and it’s going to be a great game and we are going to have great fun. It’s going to be good to see friends who we have been apart from for a few years, so it’s going to be really nice going back to the stadium.
Reina: Apparently we are playing in different teams. I will try to be on my line just in case [Xabi shoots from long distance]! But it’s about the cause, about having fun and, no matter which teams we are in, enjoying the day and having fun.
How much are you looking forward to playing in front of the fans again?
Alonso: Of course I’m really looking forward to it because this summer when I was in Madrid and after the Champions League draw, when Liverpool and Real Madrid came out together, I was here in Munich doing my medical. It was like I had the chance to go back to Anfield! But, of course Anfield is a special stadium. The fans make it special and because of that Pepe, myself and all of the former players want to go back there and feel those special feelings again because it’s something different.
Reina: It’s always a pleasure. Just to hear ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ is one emotion, to defend in front of the Kop is another emotion, and to play in front of Anfield in front of them – because of how respectful they have been for me and my family during my time there – is a wonderful and enormous honour for me.