The Myth of Xabi Alonso and Rafael Benitez

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The Myth of Xabi Alonso and Rafael Benitez
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images
Xabi Alonso, at home.

The Internet is a funny thing. It seems that if something gets said enough, people start to believe it.

One of the most galling was the constant ribbing of Rafa Benitez supposedly getting rid of Xabi Alonso at the end of Liverpool’s most successful recent season in 2008-09. At the time, the club were on a high, playing devastating football at the highest level.

 

Since when has a professional player, with the best interests of the club at heart, been concerned about an attempt to strengthen the squad?

A club and manager that had taken him from being a young prodigy and turned him into one of the most desired and talented holding midfielders in world football, a Champions League winner playing for the No.1 ranked European team.

Come on, wake up.

What really motivated Alonso a year later was the revamping of the Galacticos project at Real and the promise of a significant pay rise to go along with playing on a star-studded team in his home country.

 

The irony couldn’t be greater that one of the reasons Real Madrid had decided that a complete £200m overhaul of the player roster was the 5-0 embarrassment Benitez’s Liverpool had handed out to them in the Champions League that year!

Real, devastated by this defeat, targeted two players who had shone through on those legs—Xabi and Arbeloa.

Real were prepared to pay anything to avoid that situation again and paid through the nose for everyone £80m for Ronaldo, £55m for Kaka and ultimately £30m for Xabi, three times his purchase price, making him (at the time) the 13th best player by transfer cost of all time.

Now, unless you think Xabi is the 13th best player of all time, this shows how much Rafa valued him in the team and was reluctant to get rid of him, holding out for an extortionate fee. It was also documented that Xabi made a transfer request at the death.

Was he really afraid of Gareth Barry or resentful towards Rafa? Is he really that much of a tender hearted professional, unwilling to fight for a place?

Unlikely. 

Xabi is a professional who knows that competition is vital for squad strength.

Xabi dumped LFC for his own gain at a time when the manager was taking LFC to the next level ( in spite of miserable owners).

I have great memories for Xabi and what he did at LFC. But greater disappointment for him leaving LFC at the closest moment to ending the club's elusive title quest.

I’d even go as far as saying Xabi’s desire to leave had a massively detrimental psychological effect on the squad going into their disappointing seventh place, Europa League semi-final season of 2009-10.

That Aquilani could not get up and running in time to save Rafa’s job, (once Barry decided Man City was a better prospect) is one of the great stories of bad timing (Rafa thankfully bought new medical staff that year).

To sack the manager without even letting him run out his fully fit lineup was just stupid. (and you know he was sacked too early by the passionate defence RB still gets on blogs from a significant LFC fan base that were prepared to give him at least another half season).

All power to Kenny now, and with better owners a bright new future may dawn again soon. But enough of this long perpetuated falsity about Xabi Alonso.

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