You may have seen us mention Simon Hughes’ interview with Xabi Alonso in other articles today, but if you haven’t checked it out on the Guardian – we’d urge you to have a look…
The pair spoke on length recently and our former midfielder described how he ended up leaving Liverpool, a club, city and fanbase he loved, in 2009.
In the time since his departure, Liverpool have secured a League Cup, while the 34-year-old Spaniard has collected (gulp…) a Champions League, a La Liga title, two Copa del Reys, two Bundesligas and the German Cup.
Letting him go was undeniably one of, if not the, biggest mistake of Benitez’s tenure – which ultimately led to his departure in 2010 – following his only season without Alonso in his Liverpool squad…
In Alonso’s words, here’s how it came about – starting in 2008 when our former boss wanted to offload him and bring in Gareth Barry instead:
“Rafa came to me and was very clear. He said, ‘Xabi, we need the money to sign other players that I want’. In order to make that money, my name was the first on the list to be sold. I said, ‘OK, Rafa, no problem. I am a professional. I understand that’. There was interest from Juventus. There was interest from Arsenal. But the clubs could not agree terms. I was ready to leave, because the manager wanted me to leave. It did not happen, though. So the next year, the situation was different. I went to Rafa: ‘OK, a year ago you wanted me to leave and I accepted it. Now I want to leave . …’ In the end, there was an agreement but it was not easy because he wanted me to stay by that point.”
“I was surprised,” Alonso continued… “I was disappointed too, because I was very happy in Liverpool. I could walk down the street and people would beep their car horns and wave. None of this would matter to Rafa, of course, but why should it? He was the manager. He has his way of doing things.
“Yes, I can admit that my relationship with Rafa wasn’t as good as it had been in the first year. But I didn’t ask to leave because of that. I had been five years at Liverpool. I had the feeling it was the right thing to do.
“Moving from Liverpool to Madrid was the most difficult step to make in terms of the decision. But I felt that I had new things to learn, new challenges to take. The only thing I regret is not winning the Premier League with Liverpool. I’ll never know how that feels and experience the reaction of the city, as I did after Istanbul. It hurts because I know the people want the league title more than anything.”
Nobody from Liverpool begrudges Alonso his success since leaving because of the fact he was initially pushed, rather than forcing a move out as the likes of – say – Raheem Sterling or Luis Suarez did (although we still adore the latter).
It’s a shame we’ll never be able to call him a Liverpool player again. At one point, we were sure he’d make a romantic return, but under Jurgen Klopp, it probably wouldn’t work – sadly.