Welcome back to Last Word On Football’s look at some of Liverpool’s most iconic figures. From players to managers, we look at who has an impact during their time at the club that no Liverpool fan will ever forget. Next up is Steven Gerrard‘s favourite midfield partner, Xabi Alonso.
Joining from Real Sociedad in 2004, Alonso became part of Liverpool’s Spanish revolution and won an FA Cup, a UEFA Champions League and a UEFA Supercup. While he was beloved by fans, Alonso had issues with former manager Rafael Benitez that eventually led to his departure.
Icons of Liverpool: Xabi Alonso
Arrival At Anfield
When the now 39-year-old joined Liverpool in 2004, there was a certain optimism around Anfield. Despite losing superstar Michael Owen to Real Madrid, the Reds had kept hold of Gerrard despite advances from Chelsea. In addition, Alonso was followed to the Reds by maverick Luis Garcia, and from there, the Spanish Revolution was born.
This was the perfect antidote for a club that had stagnated under former manager Gerard Houllier.
But, the team struggled in the league and finished fifth. The most embarrassing part was that they finished behind bitter rivals, Everton. Quite simply, the new Spanish players had trouble dealing with the physical nature of the Premier League.
But, something special happened in the Champions League.
After squeaking past Olympiakos in the group stage, Liverpool went on an incredible run. After iconic wins over Bayer Leverkusen and Juventus, the Reds faced Chelsea in the semi-final. Alonso was magnificent in those games, he controlled the midfield as Liverpool earned a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge in the first leg.
Then came the return leg, when Liverpool harnessed the power of Anfield to squeak a 1-0 win. The goal was controversial as the ball barely crossed the line from Luis Garcia’s shot. Former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho still refers to it as a ghost goal.
And Alonso would have his moment in the final, where they faced AC Milan
The UEFA Champions League Final
And their quality would show in the first-half as they blew the Reds away to take a 3-0 lead. But coming out of half-time, Liverpool were a different team.
Gerrard quickly pulled one back, and minutes later midfielder Vladimir Smicer scored another to make it 3-2.
Hope was cruising through Liverpool and they attacked a shell-shocked Milan team in waves. Suddenly Gerrard was pulled down in the box and a penalty was awarded.
Alonso was the man to step up to take the penalty, and his effort was saved. But, it hardly mattered as the Spaniard converted his rebound to cue pandemonium.
From there, the game would eventually go to penalties where the Reds prevailed. Alonso became a European Champion with Liverpool. A key member of the greatest comeback of all-time.
From Cult Hero to Icon
Xabi Alonso would go on to win an FA Cup with Liverpool in 2006 and was an important member of the team that almost won the league in 2008/2009.
He became beloved by the Kop for his innate ability to control games and an incredible range of passing. The Spaniard also represented the club incredibly well off the pitch with many referring to his quiet and kind personality.
There were iconic moments such as the time when Alonso scored from inside his own half- and he did it twice! A holding midfielder, he was an incredible tackler and could read the game like no other.
It’s no wonder that Liverpool fans sang about having the “best midfield in the world” when Alonso was at the club.
But despite his many qualities, the Spaniard would soon find himself at odds with manager Rafael Benitez.
According to Alonso, the tension started when Benitez became upset that the midfielder had missed a European tie to be with his wife for the birth of his child.
From there, Benitez would approach Alonso in the summer of 2008 and tell him that he was selling him to buy Aston Villa midfielder, Gareth Barry.
The Barry deal would fall through, but the damage was done.
The following summer Alonso would leave Liverpool to join Real Madrid where he would win another European Cup. From there he joined German giants Bayern Munich before retiring in 2017.
It’s fair to say that Gerrard was not a fan of Liverpool selling Alonso.
“It was a disastrous decision to sell Alonso, and especially for just £30 million!” said the captain.
Despite an acrimonious end, Alonso remains a club favourite and he will always be a Liverpool icon.
Embed from Getty Images