Why Real Madrid Must Fend off Reported Man Utd Transfer Move for Xabi Alonso

Tim CollinsFeatured ColumnistAugust 21, 2014

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 22:  Xabi Alonso of Real Madrid CF answers a question during their press conference at Valdebebas training ground ahead of the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg match against Bayern Munich on April 22, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Quickly run your eyes over Real Madrid's Super Cup squad from Tuesday night. What do you notice?

Your focus will probably dart to that extraordinary front three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale. From there, you might drool over the silky combination of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric in midfield.

After that, it's likely you'll look to the bench to see names such as Rodriguez, Di Maria, Isco, Navas, Varane, Arbeloa and Coentrao, perhaps wondering why your own team—that's if you don't follow Real, of course—can't field a starting XI with talent as deep as that.

But if you allow yourself to ignore the superstar smoothie-ness of it all, you might notice how unique Xabi Alonso is in the middle of Florentino Perez's attacking masterpiece. 

Just like his ginger beard, there's a ruggedness to Alonso, a gritty, hard-nosed, no-nonsense approach that isn't to be found elsewhere in Real Madrid's ensemble of stars.

Those are attributes Los Blancos simply can't afford to lose.  

VALENCIA, SPAIN - APRIL 16:  Xabi Alonso of Real Madrid CF celebrates past Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona after his teammate Gareth Bale of Real Madrid CF scored the winning goal during the Copa del Rey Final between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona at Estadio
David Ramos/Getty Images

Curiously, interest in the veteran Spaniard is coming from an unlikely source—Manchester United

A report from Ben Jefferson of the Express indicates that Louis van Gaal has identified Alonso as a target after watching his team slump to defeat against Swansea on Saturday. 

Chasing a player with strong ties to Liverpool isn't typically the Manchester United way. That Van Gaal masterminded the demolition of a Spanish midfield containing Alonso just two months ago also raises an eyebrow. 

Perhaps that's just a reflection of where United are at. 

Yet, if there is validity to the report, Real Madrid must fend off Van Gaal's interest, must ignore United's public willingness to splurge, must do all they can to ensure Alonso's ongoing presence at the Bernabeu. 

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 22:  Xabi Alonso (R) of Real Madrid CF answers a question beside head coach Carlo Ancelotti during their press conference at Valdebebas training ground ahead of the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg match against Bayern Muni
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Indeed, with Perez's successful, cash-heavy swoops for Kroos and James Rodriguez this summer, there was a sense of here we go again surrounding Real Madrid, that the chase of an elusive attacking perfection was again taking precedent over all else in the Spanish capital. 

Like Perez had done with his capture of Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and David Beckham a decade ago—leading to the grave errors made in relation to Claude Makelele and manager Vicente del Bosque—it felt as though a similar saturation point was being reached this summer.

Speaking of Makelele's departure ahead of the disastrous 2003-04 season, it was Zidane who said: "Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine?"

Ahead of the 2014-15 campaign, Alonso is that engine, the man who can maintain an equilibrium at Real Madrid, the player who stands in the way of that tipping point being reached. 

If his attacking teammates represent the night-starting Jagerbombs, Alonso is the hearty meal and pint of water that stops it from all going a bit awry. 

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 02: Xabi Alonso of Real Madrid challenges Nuri Sahin of Borussia Dortmund     during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match between Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 2, 2014 in M
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Not many players have their importance defined by the way they contrast to those around them quite like the 32-year-old. 

For most, value hinges on individual excellence, their significance to a team predicated on simply what they can do with the ball. 

But there's that small group, the one Alonso fits into, that is made up of players who aren't the star attractions or big-money signings, but who possess a quality missing in their teammates that maintains a fine balance. 

When you consider Real Madrid's squad, Alonso's importance isn't based upon mere talent and skill—though there's still plenty of that—but the way his mentality and approach differs to the others surrounding him. 

In Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema, Di Maria, Rodriguez, Kroos, Modric, Isco and Jese, the European champions have an attacking brigade like no other. Even full-backs Marcelo and Daniel Carvajal border on being wingers, and no central defender on the continent likes a goal more than Sergio Ramos. 

Elsewhere, Asier Illarramendi still has plenty to prove, Sami Khedira's future is uncertain and Casemiro has been sent to Porto. 

If Alonso were to depart, there's little to call on to restore that fine balance. 

So as you run your eyes over that almost unfathomable team-sheet, running down a list of names almost fit for a fantasy XI, pause, wipe away that drool and remember that there's a rugged, ginger-bearded 32-year-old who glues it all together, maintaining that equilibrium.

His name is Xabi Alonso.