Asier Illarramendi is the newest face around the Santiago Bernabeu after Real Madrid announced the €30 million signing of the Real Sociedad midfielder, per Spanish paper Marca. Despite his high price, the Basque was worth every penny.
Madridistas hit the jackpot several weeks ago when the Spanish club sealed the signing of golden boy Isco. But surprisingly, Illarramendi may be the most important purchase of Real Madrid since Cristiano Ronaldo.
What “Illarra” brings to Real Madrid cannot be overstated. The former Real Sociedad man will make an immediate impact with Los Blancos, but it is his future that will prove even more important.
Asier Illarramendi will almost certainly begin the season as Xabi Alonso’s partner, and the Basque duo will form a nearly unstoppable force.
For €30 million, no one expects the 23-year-old to be a rotation player. Illarramendi will likely take over the starting role from Sami Khedira, which would provide more control in front of the Real Madrid defense.
It seems as though Illarra is aware of what his future holds and the partnership he will form with Xabi Alonso. In a recent report by Rubén Jiménez of Marca, he had these words to say about his new teammate:
Xabi is a great player, and has always been a role model for me as he also came from Real Sociedad, and now I have the chance to get to know him better by playing alongside him. I was with him in Zubieta and he told me how impressive all this is. Now I can see for myself how right he was.
However, merely stating that the Basque duo will form one of the world’s best double pivots is not enough to understand just what a beautiful partnership this will be when looking at the numbers.
In fact, Asier Illarramendi and Xabi Alonso both put up very impressive statistics last season that, if replicated, would be something that has rarely been seen before.
Last season Alonso averaged over three tackles and nearly two interceptions per game while also delivering two key passes each match with a passing rating of 83 percent, according to WhoScored.com.
In near likeness, Illarramendi averaged close to four tackles and over two interceptions per game while enjoying a passing rating of 80 percent and dishing out at least one key pass per match, via WhoScored.com.
The double pivot of Illarra and Alonso will give the Real Madrid backline coverage that has been needed for the last few seasons, while also being able to control play of the entire pitch.
It is no secret that Los Blancos are a different team entirely when Xabi Alonso is on the pitch. His ability to control the game goes without question, and adding Illarramendi to the mix would give the midfielder even more coverage and stability.
But though Asier Illarramendi will finally give Xabi Alonso the partner he deserves, he will also provide the replacement that Real Madrid desperately needs.
With Alonso’s contract set to expire next summer, there has been doubt over his future at Real Madrid. So much concern was raised that Alonso actually spoke out against exit rumors in a report from Marca, via Sky Sports.
Addressing the exit rumors, Alonso stated, "Of course I'm going to be here next season."
Whether or not Alonso leaves the club next summer or signs a new contract, it is apparent that Illarramendi is the midfielder of the future. His similarities to his Basque counterpart are scary, to say the least.
Illarramendi is an adept tackler, impressive reader of the game, terrific passer and someone who can control the very tempo of a match—not to mention he is from the same club background and heritage.
To put it simply, Illarramendi is the most similar thing to Xabi Alonso besides the player himself.
In closing, Illarramendi was absolutely purchased to form an exciting pair with Xabi Alonso. But that was not the deciding factor that forced Real Madrid to spend €30 million.
Can Illarramendi Replace Xabi Alonso?
Illarramendi is the future of Real Madrid and the type of player needed to ensure that the club does not skip a beat when Alonso does eventually depart the Spanish giants.
Real Madrid is aware of what the future holds. As reported by Marca, president Florentino Perez had these words to say regarding what will be expected out of the midfielder:
We wanted him to be here, he wanted to be here and now a big challenge is starting off for him. The fans are going to demand your total commitment. You come from a land of great players and traditions and all of us who love sport respect that.
Fans will be very excited to see the 23-year-old play this coming season, but knowing he will be at the club for many years to come will ultimately be the factor that helps Madridistas rest better at night.
For now, Xabi Alonso will teach Asier Illarramendi everything he knows, but in time a changing of the guard will take place. As I said, Illarramendi may be the most important purchase since Cristiano Ronaldo, and his future at the club will prove it.
How much of an impact will Asier Illarramendi have this season? Can he truly replace Xabi Alonso? Leave your thoughts and comments below.
Follow me on Twitter for more discussions on Real Madrid and all Spanish football.