5 Reasons Why Xabi Alonso Transfer to Bayern Munich Will Hurt Real Madrid
Real Madrid confirmed on Friday morning that they have reached an agreement with Bayern Munich for the transfer of midfielder Xabi Alonso.
Alonso has been a near ever-present in the starting XI since joining Madrid from Liverpool in 2009 and was a cornerstone of the side who won last season’s Champions League, despite being suspended for the final itself.
It was a surprising move and one that is likely to have a negative effect on Madrid’s season.
Here are five reasons why Alonso’s transfer to Bayern Munich will hurt Real Madrid.
Alonso was the most experienced outfield player in the Madrid squad prior to his departure, and also the most decorated. There are few situations he hasn’t encountered over the course of his highly successful career.
Carlo Ancelotti highlighted this when discussing a potential contract renewal for Alonso in December of last year.
“He is a very important player in this team,” he told Marca. “His quality and experience is impressive.”
With Alonso gone, the onus will be on the likes of Pepe and Sergio Ramos—both of whom are prone to bouts of emotion-led recklessness—to provide calm and experience when the going gets tough.
Are they up to the task?
Alonso is a born leader. Concentrate on him for an entire match and you will notice that he is constantly in communication with his teammates. He directs operations from the base of midfield.
It was these communication skills that helped him form such an effective midfield partnership with Luka Modric in the second half of last season. The Croatian is not a naturally defensive player, but he and Alonso were superb during the latter stages of Madrid’s Champions League run.
Who will step into the breach now that Alonso has departed?
Carlo Ancelotti struggled to find the right balance in the early part of last season. Madrid looked a far better side once Alonso returned from a groin injury in November.
In Alonso, Ancelotti had a proven, top-quality defensive midfielder. Alongside Luka Modric and Angel Di Maria he formed part of a threesome that would eventually lead the club to Champions League glory.
While his midfield partners had freer roles, Alonso was content to sit in and provide a shield in front of the defence. His lack of mobility meant that yellow cards were often a possibility if Madrid were caught by a quick counter, but otherwise his reading of the play and tackling ability regularly extinguished danger.
It seems as if Toni Kroos will now be entrusted with the role Alonso occupied last season, but it is questionable whether the German international has the right attributes to replicate the defensive contribution of his forebear.
One of the other options, Sami Khedira, is capable defensively but lacks the passing range of Alonso.
Ancelotti will therefore be forced to shuffle his cards once more in search of the balance necessary to bring further trophies to the club.
No Mentor for Asier Illarramendi
Asier Illarramendi’s €32.2 million move from Real Sociedad to Real Madrid last summer was a massive step up for a player with just 50 top-flight appearances to his credit.
Alonso appeared the perfect player to guide him through the experience. Both were of Basque heritage, both had started their careers at Real Sociedad and both were defensive midfielders.
Upon signing for Madrid, Illarramendi made it clear, as per Duncan McMath on ESPN FC, that he saw Alonso as a reference point:
"Xabi is a great player, which he's shown throughout his career. He will be a very important team-mate for me and I'm looking forward to training and playing with him. I will try to learn as much as I can from him."
With Alonso gone, who will now oversee Illarramendi’s development?
He Was an Excellent Ambassador for the Club
Alonso is a level-headed, honest yet respectful character who has always projected a good image for the club.
In the midst of the paranoia and back-stabbing that characterised the final year of Jose Mourinho’s reign, he refused to be drawn into the madness.
The arrival of the more sedate Carlo Ancelotti in place of the inflammatory Mourinho has improved Madrid’s image over the last year or so, but they could still have done with having someone like Alonso around the club for another couple of years.
Butragueno such a gent "Here to say goodbye to player who already is part of history of Real Madrid. Always understood what this club means"— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) August 29, 2014