Xabi Alonso

Xabi Alonso is a midfielder for Spain and Liverpool in the English Premier League.  He plays as a deep-lying playmaker, often taking on a more defensive role to allow his more attacking central midfield partner to venture forwards in search of goals.  He is a born leader, having taken on the Real Sociedad captaincy at just 19 years old, and was a first-team player throughout Spain’s victorious Euro 2008 campaign.

Xabi Alonso was born on 25th November 1981 in Tolosa, in the Basque area of Spain.  His father was a professional footballer too, and won the Spanish league with Sociedad in 1981 and 1983, before uprooting the family to Barcelona for 6 years (where he added another championship winner’s medal to his collection).  A return to San Sebastian in the Basque country followed, and Alonso settled down, playing footy for hours on the beach with his brother (Mikel Alonso, also a footballer these days) and friends – amongst whom was a young Mikel Arteta.

With his dad continuing as a football manager at teams nearby, Alonso was immersed in football from a young age, and knew he wanted to play at the top.  He had the ability to do so, and won a contract with Real Sociedad at just 15years old.

Alonso made his debut for Real Sociedad as a substitute in the tail-end of the 99/00 season, aged just 18.  He started the next season on loan at Eibar, with first-team opportunities limited.  His father took over as manager of Sociedad for a short 10-game run whilst Alonso was on loan, but it was only after he had gone that Alonso won a place in the Sociedad squad.

Alonso’s determination and technical ability, as well as his willingness to get a foot in, at any cost, won him the respect of new boss John Toshack, who made him captain!  Success at Sociedad followed, as the club climbed out of the relegation zone, stabilised in mid-table the next season, and then won the hearts and minds of Spain with a brilliant free-flowing season that saw them finish as runners-up.

Qualifying for the Champions League ensured Sociedad were able to add quality to their squad, but despite a run to the knock-out stages, Sociedad had a disappointing season and finished well short of winning a European spot.  It was time for the 2003 Spanish Player of the Year to move on to bigger and better things.

On 20th August 2004, Xabi Alonso joined the Spanish revolution that was happening on Merseyside following the arrival of head-coach Rafa Benitez.  Along with Luis Garcia, Alonso was supposed to bring some Iberian skill and technique to a club who had relied on blood and guts football for too long.  Real Madrid had been interested but were unwilling to match Sociedad’s £13m valuation.

As Alonso started to settle, he was battling with Didi Hamann for the central midfield spot alongside Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard.  Alonso failed to make his favoured deep-lying playmaker role his own, but still did enough to win a Champions League winners medal in his first season at the club.

Having adapted to the pace of the English game, Alonso became the first-choice centre-midfielder, and started to be appreciated by the fans and Press for his pinpoint accuracy when passing as well as his long-range shots which almost always had the goalkeeper scrambling.

Injuries and competition for places took their toll on Alonso in the 07/08 season, with Benitez preferring Javier Mascherano in the centre of the park.  The summer saw many rumours about where Xabi would be heading, but instead of running to Arsenal or a Spanish team, Alonso stayed and fought for a place in the team.  An injury to Mascherano allowed him a chance to get back in the team, and he took it with both hands, helping Liverpool to challenge for the title for the first time in years.

Xabi Alonso made his debut in 2003, being trialled in midfield ahead of a disappointing Euro 2004 tournament.  World Cup 2006 brought similar hopes and despairs, with Alonso now a fixed member of the first-team, and it seemed as if Spain would never be able to win a major tournament.  That all changed at Euro 2008, when Fernando Torres and David Villa added a killer-instinct to a creative and solid side to lead the Spaniards to victory.

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