Probably the biggest mistake of Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool tenure was the manner in which he unsettled Xabi Alonso by trying to sell the Spaniard so he could afford Gareth Barry – a utility midfielder who could also play left-back.
This was in the summer of 2008, but eventually, Liverpool missed out on buying Barry which meant we kept Alonso – and instead signed Robbie Keane for his well-publicised failed stint.
Alonso was incredible in 2008/09, but he was already hurt by Benitez’s actions and when he demanded an exit to Real Madrid at the end of that season, we couldn’t stand in his way.
According to Cesc Fabregas, Alonso was also very keen on switching a year previous when Rafa initially made his intentions clear.
“I was with Xabi on the phone the whole summer,” Fabregas told the Arsecast podcast,.
“He was dying to come. He was literally begging everyone to go to Arsenal, he really wanted to come.
“And to be honest, I did my best. I spoke to who I had to speak to. I gave my opinion, I thought that he was a fantastic addition for us at that time.
“And yeah I have to say that a couple of times like that I was frustrated by the lack of push, the final push – you know what I mean? That it’s so close, the player is dying to come, it’s so easy to make this deal.
“I remember the whole holiday I was talking to him, he was texting me: “What’s happening?” And it was a shame, because I think he would have been a great, great, great addition to that team. He was made for Arsenal, I think.”
We don’t really blame Xabi for this one. It wasn’t like Luis Suarez, who actively wanted to leave because he thought he was better than us (at the time, he probably was in fairness), but because Benitez told him he was no longer needed.
If your manager was happy to use you as a pawn in trying to get Barry in, while Arsene Wenger was desperate to bring you in at the Emirates, this thought process seems natural.
Still, we’re mighty glad it never happened – as it would have tainted our appreciation of one of the best midfielders we’ve seen in the Premier League era.