Xabi Alonso or Gareth Barry? Spanish Precision or English Grace?

..... .....Correspondent IJuly 3, 2008

Xabi Alonso. Detrimental to 25th of May 2005. First season in the English game. The score stood at 3-2, to a nervy Milan side; having controlled the first half with some of the most beautiful football you're likely to see.

12 yards out seemed a long way, through the plastic screen I squinted at. The penalty needed nerves of steel, he missed but he had the nous to tuck away the rebound, despite Alessandro Nesta smashing in from behind and the massive frame of Brazilian Dida sliding in front of him.

Top corner, left footed. Bang. 3-3. If anyone deserved to be the hero that night, it was him. Alas there was 14 Heroes, subs included. Add to that the FA Cup, and a few other trinkets along the way, to the European Championships he has just won then it begs the question, Gareth who?

Alonso would be suited to the Italian game, with Juventus seeming to be plying the rights for the "best midfield in the world song" already poaching Momo Sissoko from us.

Gareth Barry hasn't won an awful lot. Sure, his left foot is very talented, and he is a mean set piece taker, corners, free kicks and an assured penalty master. Yet, I struggle to find a place for him in my best 11. Left back? Wasted there, and with the imminent arrival of Udinese left back Andrea Dossena he wouldn't get much playing time there it seems.

Barry and Steven Gerrard are good friends and have been since the Lilleshall England days, it tells the story for England where the resurgence of the English midfield is dominated by Barry and Gerrard, with Frank Lampard seeming surplus to requirements.

The two go together like a well oiled machine, Barry the cog to Gerrards spoke, firing the engine room for the forwards, be it Rooney, Crouch or Owen (When he isn't strengthening the Newcastle physio's muscles or bank balance).

Can that form be replicated for Liverpool? Well with Mascherano just behind them, Barry supplying the second striker in Gerrard for Torres it very well could. The team of,


Finnan Carragher Agger Dossena

..........Mascherano Barry



Could very well bear some fruit, but change Alonso for Barry and you have the same thing. Lucas will want some playing time, as will the new youngster to emerge from the academy, Damien Plessis

(If you wish to see one of the most assured débuts ever, see the Arsenal v Liverpool match from the Emirates from last season, unbelievable composure from one so young).

Of course there will be more signings made, you would hope. Kuyt is a good stop gap for the time being but to make the next step up we need some flair and a more creative force coming in from the right whilst Babel flatters to deceive and we have only seen him in glimpses of the potential which Marco Van Basten described him as "the next Thierry Henry" despite being Dutch.

All in all, Alonso and Barry could both be in red shirts next season but I know who I would rather have, sorry Stevie G, Gazza Bazza will have to make peace with the crazy one, Martin O'Neill. Xabi stays.