Xabi Alonso: Should He Stay Or Should He Go?
What a difference a year makes.
This time last year, Liverpool were discussing the prospect of Gareth Barry arriving at Anfield, a move that would have all but called time on Xabi Alonso's Liverpool career.
He hadn't had his best season, but he wanted to stay. Liverpool, on the other hand, wanted Barry.
In the end, the deal never went through. Aston Villa's asking price was too high for Rafael Benitez's liking, and neither club would budge.
Alonso stayed and was a major reason behind Liverpool's charge for the Premier League title, forming a balanced and effective partnership with Javier Mascherano.
Fast forward a year and you have a completely different situation, with the same end result.
Continued interest from Real Madrid has caused Alonso to push for a move away from Anfield so he can join Madrid's revolution and team up with the likes of Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo.
In a role reversal, however, Alonso is now seen as an integral part of Liverpool's potentially title-challenging season. Benitez, understandably, is not willing to lose him.
But with the might of Madrid putting the pressure on Liverpool, it will be hard to resist, especially as the player has formally handed in a written transfer request.
Still, though, Benitez is refusing to negotiate the £30 million asking price, much like Martin O'Neill was unwilling to negotiate the Gareth Barry saga.
It is thought that Florentino Perez, the man who has splashed the cash to embark on another Galacticos era, is unwilling to meet that valuation due to Alonso's lack of commercial strength.
The Galacticos are as much about success off the pitch as they are on it, and Perez likes players who will satisfy both of these needs.
While there is little argument that Alonso would help Madrid's on-field fortunes, providing the perfect foil for Kaka, the £30 million transfer fee is unlikely to be recouped in shirt and other merchandise sales.
So what should each club do? Well, I think Liverpool are doing the right thing here. Alonso is undoubtedly an important player who would need to be replaced, but £30 million, even in this inflated transfer market, is very good business.
However, considering his importance to the club, they shouldn't let him go for any less than that. Madrid are used to making players show they really want to move to the club. Here, Liverpool are making them show whether they really want the player.
One potential problem with that tactic, however, is the happiness of the transfer target. A player who feels he is being kept at a club against his will isn't necessarily going to be at his best when playing for that club.
Fortunately, in Xabi Alonso, Liverpool have a dignified and professional player.
So what are the pros and cons of this move for Real Madrid?
Well, the pros are fairly obvious. They would be getting one of the best passers in world football, an ideal man to partner Kaka in midfield, and a more balanced team.
The cons are less obvious, and are more about business than football. As I have already mentioned, the likelihood of making up the £30 million through merchandise is very small.
They must also establish whether they think Alonso is worth £30 million. Personally, I think if Ronaldo is worth £80 million then Alonso is worth £30 million.
So, Xabi Alonso, should he stay or should he go? As a Liverpool fan, I naturally want him to stay. However, I think if we can get £30 million for him then it would be good business, and would provide enough money to find an adequate replacement.
For Liverpool? Stay.
For Real Madrid? Go.
For Xabi Alonso? Stay. At least for one more year. The level of optimism at Anfield is higher than ever before in the Benitez reign, and Alonso would do well to look back at Rafa's first season in charge.
A certain Micheal Owen had the choice to stay and see what Benitez brought to the team, or leave for Real Madrid. He left, and Liverpool went on to win the Champions League.
If Xabi Alonso leaves, he may miss out on the best chance to claim a Premier League title in his career.
That's my view, but what do you think? In the first edition of this new series, I ask you: Xabi Alonso. Should he stay or should he go?
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