In one poignant tweet Bayern Munich and Spanish National Xabi Alonso confirmed that he would be retiring at the end of this season. The veteran midfielder will end his 18-year professional career with a trophy case full of honors having been part of successful club teams and representing his native Spain in a golden age of international dominance.
“It was when I became an adult and I realised in that first year at Liverpool what a special club it is, with all the history and the tradition of Liverpool. -Xabi Alonso
The versatile midfielder was the ultimate two-way player in the middle of the pitch. Able to make precision passes to teammates and coming back and holding his own on the defensive side. His legacy is solid as a one of a kind generation player for club and country, but to me Xabi’s real glory came when he wore the red of Liverpool Football Club.
Anfield, where everything started… YNWA https://t.co/mCZazvFFJQ
— Xabi Alonso (@XabiAlonso) March 10, 2017
In the time that Xabi manned the middle at Anfield, Liverpool finished in the Premier League top four every season, won the FA Cup, Community Shield, UEFA Super Cup, made two Champions League Finals winning one in 2005. It’s no coincidence since he left Liverpool, the club has only collected one trophy and is no longer a consistent top four team.
At Liverpool Xabi was not a prolific goal scorer but his adept passing led to 28 assists putting him in the top 10 all-time in the Premier League era. Xabi’s partnership with Captain Steven Gerrard was the backbone of those Liverpoool teams and lead to the two indelible moments in his Liverpool history.
After an injury plagued debut season Xabi and his teammates made the 2005 Champions League Final in Istanbul against Serie A heavyweights AC Milan. Coming back from 3-0 half-time, it was Xabi who had the chance to tie the score on a penalty at the 60 minute mark. AC Milan goalie Dida was able to stop Xabi’s initial shot but on the rebound Xabi slotted the goal home sending the Liverpool fans into euphoria as the team had improbably tied the game. When Liverpool won after penalties Xabi would hoist the European Cup for the first time.
The following year this time in the FA Cup Final against West Ham United again Liverpool would need a tying goal. Down 3-2 in the 90th minute a ball flew into the West Ham goal where Xabi was able to head it out to Steven Gerrard, who thundered a 90-yard shot into the roof of the net scoring the improbable tying goal. Again Liverpool would win in penalties, Alonso was unable to continue due to an ankle injury but he would raise another trophy.
Despite success with the team, differences with team manager Rafa Benitez led to his premature departure in 2009, three years before his contract was up. One could argue the team missed out on glory as Alonso would go on to help Real Madrid win the league title, two Copa Del Rey’s, and the teams tenth European Cup. On an international scale Alonso would man the defensive midfield as Spain would hoist to European Trophies and the World Cup.
Alonso’s well deserved retirement may be remembered more for his time in Spain but for me there is always the glory of one night in Istanbul and a valiant 90 minutes in the FA final. His place in Liverpool history is surely secure.