ⓘ Xabi Alonso

                                     

ⓘ Xabi Alonso

Xabier Alonso Olano ʃaβj aˈlonso oˈlano" ; born 25 November 1981) is a Spanish football manager and former professional player who played as a central midfielder. He is the manager of Segunda Division B club Real Sociedad B.

Alonso began his career at Real Sociedad, the main team of his home province Gipuzkoa. After a brief loan period at Eibar, he was appointed as team captain of Real Sociedad by then-manager John Toshack. He succeeded in the role, taking the club to second place in the 2002–03 season. He moved to Liverpool in August 2004 for £10.5 million and won the UEFA Champions League in his first season, under manager Rafael Benitez, scoring the equalising goal in the Final against Milan. The following season, he won the FA Cup and the FA Community Shield.

He moved to Real Madrid for the start of the 2009–10 season in a deal worth around £30 million. After winning honours including a league title in 2012 and the Champions League in 2014 during five seasons in Madrid, he was signed by German club Bayern Munich on a two-year contract. This was extended by a further year, and he eventually retired from playing in summer 2017, aged 35, having won the Bundesliga in each of his three seasons with Bayern.

He made his international debut for Spain in April 2003 in a 4–0 victory against Ecuador. While playing for Spain, Alonso won Euro 2008, Euro 2012 and the 2010 World Cup, and he also represented his country at Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup. On 23 June 2012, Alonso won his 100th cap for Spain in the quarter-final of Euro 2012 against France; he celebrated the occasion by scoring both of Spains goals to send them into the semi-finals. Following Spains failure to progress out of the group stages at the 2014 World Cup, Alonso retired from international football on 27 August 2014. His 114 caps make him the seventh-most capped player in the nations history.

                                     

1. Early years

Alonso was born in the small town of Tolosa, Gipuzkoa, Basque Country, into a family known for its footballing prowess. His father, Periko Alonso, won La Liga twice in successive seasons with Real Sociedad and a third time after he joined Barcelona. He also featured in the national team, winning 21 caps over the course of his career. Xabi Alonso lived in the city of Barcelona for the first six years of his life and moved to San Sebastian Donostia thereafter. It was here that his passion for football began as he whiled away his childhood playing at Playa de la Concha Shell Beach. On the Basque sands, Alonso befriended a fellow resident of Calle Matia, Mikel Arteta, and the two would battle each other in exhibitions of technical ability. He was immersed in football and his father would often bring him and his older brother, Mikel, to CE Sabadells training ground to practice together. Alonso was influenced by his fathers playing, taking more pleasure in passing the ball well than shooting at goal. At an early age, he decided to play as a defensive midfielder, a role which helped him learn how to distribute the ball well. This talent would later prove to be an integral part of his club and international career.

At age 15, Alonso went to the Irish town of Kells, County Meath, on a school exchange programme to learn English.

Alonso and Arteta were ambitious and dreamed of playing alongside each other for Real Sociedad when they were older. Though they attended different schools, the two young players joined forces at the local youth side Antiguoko, playing games at the weekend. Their performances attracted the attention of scouts from top Spanish sides and the young Donostiarras separated ways, ending nine years of friendly rivalry, as Alonso went to Real Sociedad and Arteta moved to Catalan giants Barcelona. Alonsos move to Real Sociedad, however, was not a companionless one, as his older brother Mikel, who had also become an adept player, had joined the club one year earlier.

                                     

2.1. Club career Real Sociedad

Alonso quickly progressed through the youth ranks and the reserve team at Real Sociedad winning the regionalised fourth tier in his single season with the latter and impressed enough to earn a first team debut at the age of 18. He made his first senior appearance against Logroñes in December 1999 in a Copa del Rey match. Alonso failed to make another appearance in the season but the following year brought more opportunities. At the beginning of the 2000–01 season, Javier Clemente sent him to Segunda Division team Eibar to gain experience. Alonsos father particularly felt the move to the smaller club improved him as a player. A quick turnover of managers, however, including a two-month period with Periko Alonso in charge, left Real Sociedad in a dire situation. By January 2001, Real Sociedad were bottom of the league and its new manager, John Toshack, turned to the prodigious Alonso in the hope of reversing the teams fortunes. In a surprise move, the Welsh manager made the 20-year-old the team captain, a position traditionally held by more senior players. By the end of the season, Sociedad had climbed out of the relegation zone and finished in 14th place. Toshack lauded Alonso, noting that the impression he had on the team was exceptional, especially for a player from the youth team.

Under the tutelage of John Toshack, Alonsos captaincy marked a resurgence of form for Real Sociedad. Toshack recognised Alonsos potential and invested much time in his young captain, creating a training method designed to improve his touch and control specifically for him. The team cemented its mid-table position in the 2001–02, finishing in 13th place. Alonso appeared consistently in La Liga with 30 appearances over the course of the season and also scored his first league goal, finishing with a season total of three. Real Sociedads management changed again in the summer of 2002 with the arrival of Raynald Denoueix, but Alonso kept his place in the first team on the strength of his past performances.

The 2002–03 season was the clubs best league performance since the 1981–82 season, in which they won the league. The Basque team finished second, two points behind Real Madrid, setting a club record for their highest ever points total, and qualifying for the UEFA Champions League for the first time. Alonso received much praise for his role in the teams success and was given the Best Spanish Player award by Spanish sports magazine Don Balon. In addition, Alonso significantly contributed to the teams goal tally, scoring 12 goals in all competitions. His performances earned Alonso national repute and Iñaki Saez, the coach of the Spanish national team, called him up for La Seleccion. Alonso made his international debut in April 2003 in a 4–0 friendly win over Ecuador. Saez raved over Alonso, saying, "He has a fantastic range of accurate passing because it wasnt something I ever asked for."

Despite the events of the summer, Alonso made a confident start to the season and both his peers and the press praised his strength of character, citing his influence as a factor in the teams strong opening to the season. Alonsos importance to the team was further underlined when he scored the only goal, through a deflection, in a 0–1 victory against Chelsea, making Liverpool the first away team to win at Stamford Bridge in over four years. Statistical analysis reflected Alonsos good form: on 11 December, figures from Opta Sports revealed that he was the first Premier League player to complete 1.000 successful passes in the season. His last goal for Liverpool came in their 1–3 away win at Hull City on 25 April, striking after his free kick deflected off the Hull wall.

                                     

2.2. Club career 2009–10 season

Alonso completed his £30 million move to Real Madrid on 5 August 2009. It has been suggested that he never wanted to leave the Anfield side, with his contract existing until at least 2012, and that his departure was due to differences with Benitez. Former teammate Steven Gerrard said he was "devastated" by Alonsos decision, and cited his departure as one of the reasons behind Liverpools poor run of form at the start of the following season.

Alonso was given the number 22 jersey in Madrid and played in a holding midfield position. He scored his first goal for his new team on 21 February 2010, a penalty against Villarreal in a 6–2 win. Unless he was injured or suspended, Manuel Pellegrini started Alonso in every match of the Champions League and in La Liga in his first season at Real Madrid. In La Liga, he helped the club finish with a club-record 96 points, three points behind winners Barcelona. It was the third time in Alonsos career that he helped his team set a new club record in terms of points gathered, while finishing in second position he achieved the same feat with Real Sociedad in 2002–03 and with Liverpool in 2008–09. During his first season at Real Madrid, Alonso scored three goals and was considered one of the clubs "most consistent" players. Readers of Marca made him part of its La Liga team of the season, as their choice defensive midfielder; the only other Real Madrid player featured was Cristiano Ronaldo. Alonso received the same accolade from ESPN Soccernet. He was also a nominee in the LFP Awards, awards given out by the Liga de Futbol Profesional, the Spanish Football league. Alonso was nominated in the Best Midfielder category, alongside Xavi and Javi Martinez. Several members of the Spanish press, as well as a number of Real Madrid supporters, gave Alonso a new nickname during the season: La Barba Roja "The Red Beard".



                                     

2.3. Club career 2010–11 season

Alonsos second season at Real Madrid started with the arrival of a new manager, Jose Mourinho. He was given the number 14 jersey after the departure of vice-captain Guti. He did not score any goals that whole season but was vital. While he believed that Real Madrid would win the league, the club only managed to win the Copa del Rey.

                                     

2.4. Club career 2011–12 season

Alonso began his third season at Madrid by scoring the second goal in a 2–2 draw against Barcelona in the 2011 Supercopa de España at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. On 21 September 2011, he played his 100th official game for Real Madrid in the 0–0 draw against Racing de Santander. Alonso continued to be an undisputed force in the starting XI and ultimately claimed the first league title of his career.

                                     

2.5. Club career 2013–14: La Decima

On 8 January 2014, Alonso signed a contract extension with Real Madrid, which would have kept him at the club until 2016.

On 29 April 2014, Real Madrid defeated Bayern Munich 4–0 in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final to qualify for the final on a 5–0 aggregate win. Alonso received a yellow card after a sliding tackle on Bastian Schweinsteiger in the first half; as he already had two before the match, this ruled him out of the final. He claimed his second Champions League winners medal as Real defeated Atletico Madrid 4–1 in extra time.



                                     

2.6. Club career Bayern Munich

On 29 August 2014, Alonso moved to Bayern Munich on a two-year deal for an undisclosed fee. He made his debut the following day, starting in a 1–1 draw at Schalke 04. On 27 September 2014, in the match against 1. FC Koln, Alonso broke the record for most passes completed in a Bundesliga game, with 196. He scored his first goal for the club on 18 October 2014, a free kick in a 6–0 win over Werder Bremen.

On 17 February 2015, in his 100th Champions League appearance, Alonso was sent-off for a second bookable offense in a 0–0 draw against Shakhtar Donetsk. Alonso was suspended for the return leg of the fixture, which Bayern won 7–0. Alonso would go on to record his fourth goal, another free kick, against Porto in the Champions League quarter-final. Bayern would go on to win 6–1, advancing to the semi-finals for a fourth-straight season on aggregate, 7–4.

On 28 April 2015, Alonso was one of four Bayern players, all FIFA World Cup winners, to miss in a 2–0 penalty shootout defeat to Borussia Dortmund in the DFB-Pokal semi-final. He was also the only player to miss as the club lost the shootout at the end of the 2015 DFL-Supercup away to VfL Wolfsburg, his attempt being saved by goalkeeper Koen Casteels.

On 18 December 2015, Alonso signed a new contract with Bayern, keeping him at the club until 2017. On 9 March 2017, Alonso confirmed via Twitter his retirement from the game at the end of the 2016–17 season.

On 20 May 2017, Alonso and teammate, Bayern captain Philipp Lahm played their final professional game, in a 4–1 victory at home to Freiburg in which he assisted the opening goal for Arjen Robben. He was substituted off in the 82nd minute for Franck Ribery. It was his 79th match in the German top-flight.



                                     

3.1. International career Euro 2004

Alonso was a substitute in Spains 1–0 victory against Russia and played a full 90 minutes against Portugal. Spain were eliminated in the group stage.

                                     

3.2. International career 2006 World Cup

Alonso was named in the Spanish squad for the 2006 FIFA World Cup and he scored Spains first goal of the tournament, his first international goal, against Ukraine on 14 June 2006. Despite a successful group phase, where Spain won all their games, Alonso did not achieve international glory as the team were beaten by the eventual finalists France in the first knockout stage of the tournament.

                                     

3.3. International career 2009 Confederations Cup

After Spain were surprisingly eliminated from the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup by a defeat to the United States, Alonso and Spain faced South Africa in the third-place match. After 90 minutes, the game was deadlocked at 2–2, so extra time was added, where Alonso scored a free-kick in to the bottom corner of the goal to help Spain win third.

                                     

3.4. International career 2010 World Cup

Alonso started every game for Spain during the 2010 tournament, playing alongside Sergio Busquets and Xavi in midfield and helping his side to lift their first-ever World Cup trophy. In the 28th minute of the final against the Netherlands, he received a "Kung fu-style" kick to the chest from Dutch midfielder Nigel de Jong, the foul was controversial since it appeared to be a foul worthy of a straight red, but was only ruled out to be a yellow card given by referee Howard Webb. This left Alonso in pain and in fear of a broken rib. Despite this pain, he continued playing on for another hour.

                                     

3.5. International career Euro 2012

On 23 June 2012, Alonso played his 100th match for Spain in the quarter-finals against France in which he scored both goals in a 2–0 victory. The first goal came after he headed a cross from the left flank delivered by Jordi Alba, while the second one came from a penalty kick given after Pedro was fouled by Anthony Reveillere in the dying seconds of the match. Alonsos penalty in the semi-final shoot-out against Portugal was saved by Rui Patricio in which Spain went on to win 4–2 after a 0–0 draw in the game itself. Spain went on to beat Gianluigi Buffon and Italy 4–0 in the finals; this was Alonsos third major title win with Spain.



                                     

3.6. International career 2014 World Cup

Spain were again amongst the favourites for cup victory in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but had a very disappointing campaign that ended in the first round. Alonso scored a penalty in the 27th minute of their first match against the Netherlands, though he was substituted in the 62nd minute with Spain down 2–1. The match ultimately ended with a resounding 5–1 win for the Netherlands. Spain then suffered another defeat, this time falling 2–0 to Chile. In that match, Alonso received a yellow card in the first half and was substituted at half-time with the score already at 2–0. Spain were then eliminated from the tournament but did win their final match 3–0 against Australia and finished third in the group; Alonso played 83 minutes in the match.

Alonso retired from international football on 27 August 2014.

                                     

3.7. International career Basque Country

Alonso made his debut for the Basque Country national team in a friendly against Ghana on 29 December 2001 and received regular call ups since, while – due to his busy club schedule – not always being able to appear. Most recently, Alonso appeared for Basque on 29 December 2012 in a 6–1 victory over Bolivia.

                                     

4. Style of play

A complete, consistent, hardworking and versatile midfielder, Alonso is regarded as one of the best midfielders of his generation, and was effective both creatively and defensively. Gifted with good technique, excellent vision, and varied passing range, he excelled in the centre in a deep-lying playmaking role, where he utilized his accurate long passing ability to create goal scoring chances for teammates; he also utilized a powerful and accurate shot from distance, and he was an effective set-piece and penalty kick taker. Due to his height, positioning, and physical characteristics, Xabi Alonso was also effective in the air, often contributing with headed goals from set pieces when he advanced into more offensive positions. In addition to his creative attributes, he was also capable of excelling as a defensive midfielder due to his strength and powerful physique, combined with his tenacity, tactical intelligence, aggressive tackling and his ability to read the game. He was at times criticised, however, for occasionally committing rash challenges and for his tendency to lose his composure and pick up unnecessary cards for particularly hard fouls. Regarding Alonsos playing style, Jonathan Wilson noted in a 2013 article for The Guardian that he was an example of a more creative interpreter of the holding midfield role, who, "although capable of making tackles, focused on keeping the ball moving, occasionally raking long passes out to the flanks to change the angle of attack like an old-style regista." Since retiring, Steven Gerrard has claimed that he believes Alonso was the best midfielder he has ever played alongside. Moreover, in 2017, Pep Guardiola described Alonso as one of the best midfielders he had ever seen in his life.



                                     

5. Coaching and managerial career

In 2018, whilst completing his UEFA Elite coaching course alongside former teammates Raul, Xavi, Victor Valdes and Joan Capdevila, Alonso returned to Real Madrid where he assumed a role coaching the Real Madrid U14s.

Alonso was appointed manager of Segunda Division B club Real Sociedad B on 1 June 2019, and began the role on 9 July 2019.

                                     

6. Personal life

Alonso was regarded as a quiet and friendly person by his former teammates at Liverpool. He is married to Nagore Aranburu and the couple have three children: Jontxu, Ane and Emma. Alonso stayed in Merseyside to be at her side while she gave birth, later saying, "It was a little frustrating to miss the match against Inter but I have to be with my family at times like these." His decision to place his family ahead of a Champions League tie caused much friction with former manager Rafael Benitez. On 30 March 2010, they had their second child, a girl named Ane Alonso Aranburu. Their third child and second daughter, Emma Alonso Aranburu, was born on 2 December 2013.

Alonso and former Arsenal player Mikel Arteta were neighbours on the same street while growing up in San Sebastian and also lived near each other in Liverpool. Alonso convinced Arteta to transfer to Everton after he told him how happy he was living in Liverpool. Alonso also helped persuade former Real Sociedad teammate Juan Ugarte to make a move to Wales by joining Wrexham in 2004.

Alonsos brother Mikel plays for Spanish club Real Union. He previously spent a season on loan at Bolton Wanderers in the 2007–08 season with an option for a permanent deal. However, the team opted not to extend the loan deal and he returned to Spain to train with Xabi Alonsos former club, Real Sociedad. Alonso also has another brother involved in football, Jon, who works as a referee.

Alonso is a Meath Gaelic football supporter. His interest in the Irish sport stems from the age of 15 when he went to the Irish town of Kells, County Meath, and stayed with a family to learn English, where he played it in his spare time.

Even while playing at Real Madrid, Alonso has declared himself a Liverpool supporter and returns to watch games at Anfield when his schedule allows. He was quoted in The Times Online in 2011 as saying, "I am still a Liverpool fan and will be forever, absolutely" and that he will raise his Liverpool-born son as a Red supporter.

                                     

7. Politics

In 2009, Xabi Alonso criticised then-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Gordon Browns economic policy, in particular the devalued pound sterling and the 50% tax rate, warning that it has weakened English football and could drive top players away from the UK.

                                     

8. Career statistics

Club

1 Includes FIFA Club World Cup, FA Community Shield, Supercopa de España and DFL-Supercup.

International

As of 18 June 2014
  • the match against away against Equatorial Guinea in November 2013 although included in Alonsos 114 caps is not considered a full international by FIFA too many substitutions but it is official for the RFEF
                                     

9. Honours

Liverpool

  • UEFA Champions League: 2004–05
  • UEFA Super Cup: 2005
  • FA Community Shield: 2006
  • FA Cup: 2005–06

Real Madrid

  • La Liga: 2011–12
  • UEFA Champions League: 2013–14
  • Copa del Rey: 2010–11, 2013–14
  • Supercopa de España: 2012

Bayern Munich

  • DFB-Pokal: 2015–16
  • Bundesliga: 2014–15, 2015–16, 2016–17
  • DFL-Supercup: 2016

Spain

  • UEFA European Championship: 2008, 2012
  • FIFA World Cup: 2010

Individual

  • FIFA FIFPro World XI: 2011, 2012
  • La Liga Best Midfielder: 2011–12
  • UEFA European Championship Team of the Tournament: 2012
  • FIFA FIFPro World XI 5th team: 2016
  • FIFA FIFPro World XI 2nd team: 2014
  • BBC Goal of the Month: November 2004
  • FIFA FIFPro World XI 3rd team: 2013
  • UEFA Champions League Squad of the Season: 2013–14
  • Bundesliga Team of the Season: 2014–15
  • Spanish Player of the Year: 2003
  • FIFA FIFPro World XI 4th team: 2015

Decorations

  • Gold Medal of the Royal Order of Sporting Merit: 2011