Xabi Alonso: Unsung Architect of Liverpool's Recent Revival

Danny StewartContributor IMarch 30, 2009

MIDDLESBROUGH, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 28:  Xabi Alonso of Liverpool shows his dejection at the end of the Barclays Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Liverpool at the Riverside Stadium on February 28, 2009 in Middlesbrough, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Sometimes, a manager's career, or possibly his whole life's work, can be defined by one moment of genius. It could even be a stroke of luck.

That Rafa Benitez now has the brilliant Xabi Alonso to call upon is sheer chance, not some strategical success. The Spanish "conductor" himself would probably admit that.

Had only the i's been dotted and the t's crossed, Gareth Barry would now be part of Liverpool's engine room, not his Spanish counterpart. Such was Benitez's desire to part with his first signing.

However, Juventus' loss is definitely Liverpool's gain, as Alonso has had something of an "Indian summer" in footballing terms, and his stock has increased dramatically.

Critics of the donostiarra point to the last two seasons of Alonso's Liverpool career and insist that the Reds playmaker had probably played himself into an Anfield departure rather than into the Anfield record books. That was the carte du jour that Alonso was bringing to the Reds table.

Now, however, the boot (so to speak) is firmly on the other foot. The tabloids are full of this exquisite, supreme passer of the patent leather. They're arguing that he is now in the form of his life, and rightly so.

For Alonso has made the "holding" position his own this season. He and his colleague, Argentine teammate Javier Mascherano, form the defensive force behind the creative matter that is Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.

Gerrard now is arguably the best footballer on the planet, due in the main to two reasons. First, he now occupies a more advanced role in the Liverpool attack; and second, he no longer has defensive midfield duties. Alonso has certainly contributed to both of these benefits.

Breaking up attacks from outside his own area before releasing a 40-yard cross-field pass in the mould of a certain Jan Molby, the Reds Spanish artista is now carving a name for himself in the annals of Liverpool's history.

If the Reds add title No. 19 to their ledger, then the man they call "Shabby" will have created a renaissance all of his own.