Monday, September 7, 2009

Xabi Unplugged

Xabi Alonso may be frustrated about the stories that have been published regarding his summer transfer from Liverpool to Real Madrid, but he understands it is the nature of modern football and life in the spotlight.

He has only good words for his former club, where he played 210 games, scoring 19 goals.

“I am starting a new era and I will be eternally grateful to Liverpool because they are a very special institution,” Alonso told Champions Magazine.

“I jumped into the pool of their history and philosophy. I got involved in the city and loved living in the centre. I have grown as a person and as a player.

“When I joined it was a new project and I was also starting out in this game. I left Spain as a 22-year-old and became something of a sponge, absorbing everything and trying to find out about the new country, its society and daily lives. I listened to people, talked to strangers, looked around.

“You have to have an open mind to respect their traditions. That helped me understand what was expected of me and the team. Plus, the experience of playing among the elite of Europe, fighting for titles, that has matured me after five unforgettable years.”

Alonso married in the summer, in the midst of speculation and wrangling over his proposed move from Anfield, but the player did not invite his former club manager, Rafael Benitez.

He said: “I invited friends, I guess it’s fair to say. Rafa and I always had a very professional relationship, yet there are a lot of urban myths about what we went through. It wasn’t so bad.

“His style is what has made him what he is. I suppose every now and again a player would appreciate a bit more closeness, a pat on the back, but Rafa is not that kind of guy.

“He told me to keep a balance. You are not a genius when things go very well, but neither a disaster when things go wrong.”

Now the Basque midfielder has admitted that the chance to be a part of Florentino Perez's project in the Spanish capital was irresistible.

“Madrid have magnetism, and this is a very special moment because, as it was when I joined Liverpool, there are unanswered questions over a new project with endless possibilities,” he said.

“I have never seen so much quality together and never imagined that a team could gather so much talent. I look ahead of me and see Kaka, Ronaldo, Benzema, Raul. What luxury! But the most fascinating challenge is to oil this machine properly.”

If the challenge is making such a line-up greater than the sum of its individual parts, then many of those players will need to find a swift response to those ‘unanswered questions’.

Not least, perhaps, Cristiano Ronaldo, who thrived on the counterattack for Manchester United but must quickly impress in a team dependent upon dominating possession.

Alonso continued: “After so many years in the Premier League it might be difficult to adapt to the pace of La Liga, where people play more to feet.

“In that sense, the game isn’t as dynamic here, and Cristiano might have to adapt a little. But the talent he has, the power, individual technique and shooting, that will help him play well here.”

The capture of those big-name signings was enough to overshadow Real’s fierce rivals Barcelona in the transfer market, but Alonso insists that getting his club’s own house in order is the priority.

“I don’t know if we are better than Barcelona or not, we’ll find out as the season goes on. We cannot focus on them. We must concentrate on what we are doing day by day, trying to improve step by step and developing a strong sense of togetherness,” he said.

“There’s a long way to go. Having not got past the last 16 [in the Champions League] for five years, Real Madrid have to play in another final soon. Why not at the Bernabeu?” 

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