Xabi Alonso will make an excellent manager, or some kind of diplomat, perhaps! He’s got that air of authority that surrounds football’s most respected figures, that’s for certain.
The legendary Spaniard has given a lengthy interview with the Echo about his career and time at the club, and naturally, James Pearce asked him to elongate on the 2008 saga which saw Rafa Benitez try to replace him with Gareth Barry.
It was a horrible miscalculation by Benitez, even though his hands were tied in that he needed to raise transfer funds by selling somebody. Alonso went on to win World Cups and Champions Leagues, while Barry is at Everton…
But our former star holds no grudges and explains that while he was surprised, he actually understood his manager’s decision.
“Yeah, he was open. He showed me his cards – very clearly. I said to him: ‘Of course, Rafa, I accept this. You are the one that has made the decision.’ But in the end, nothing happened…
“That’s football and I had no problems with him. The thing with the birth of my child, that had nothing to do with Benitez either.
“I guess my mind changed, my position in the team changed, a little bit that summer – because I wasn’t expecting the manager to say I could be sold. But that’s all.
“I was really close to Juventus and close to Arsenal, but Liverpool were asking for £18m, and they were both offering £15m! So that’s why it didn’t happen,” Alonso concluded, with a smile on his face!
In summer 2009 though, following a brilliant individual season, Real Madrid came in for Alonso – and the rest, as they say, is history.
The 35-year-old is retiring in the summer and will go down as a modern great. Perhaps he’ll add a third Champions League medal to his mantle as well – only the second player to do so with three different clubs after Clarence Seedorf.