Spain’s X-factor

Xabi Alonso (29) is the link between Spain’s defence and attack; ensuring balance in Spain’s midfield. Thanks to the Madrid midfielder, players like Andrés Iniesta and Xavi have the chance to operate freely and exhibit their creativity and skills. Every coach who has worked with him rates the Basque citizen very high. Xabi sees what other players don’t see on the field of play. That is why he is able to anticipate moves faster than his compatriots. He has an eye for the ball, his long range passing being his main asset. The accuracy of his passing is phenomenal.

Xabi did not disappoint in South Africa. He’s one of the best passer in the game. The midfielder executed 82 passes per game (averagely) in the group stages of the World Cup. What surprises me the most is the high percentage of successful passes this man is able to make. He earned the nickname the Midfield Maestro from Liverpool fans.

The Basque citizen developed a passion for the ‘passing game’ while most other boys were only interested in scoring goals. At a young age it was already evident that Xabi Alonso Olano had his father’s genes .In the early 80’s, Miguel Angel Alonso won La Liga twice with Real Sociedad. Periko (Miguel’s nickname) transferred to Barcelona after his success with the team from the Basque Province. With the Blaugranas, Alonso Snr. won La Liga,Copa del Rey and the Super Cup.The ex midfielder represented Spain at their disappointing 1982 FIFA World Cup showing on home soil. La Furia Roja advanced to the second round of the tournament ahead of Yugoslavia on a better goal difference, but were last in a group that saw England and Germany outshine them. Periko scored once in his 20 appearances for Spain. Xabi Alonso is from a soccer family. His brother Mikel has also had a decent career in Spain (Real Sociedad and Tenerife) and a not so good one in England (Bolton).

Xabi Alonso practised at the Playa de la Concha (San Sebastian’s shell beach) in order to improve his technical skills. He started his career at club side Antiguoko together with Mikel Arteta. The two became very good friends but Arteta left the team to join Barcelona while Alonso joined Real Sociedad. Xabi and Arteta later became ‘rivals’ in the EPL when Alonso joined Liverpool. Arteta has been an Evertonian since 2005, Liverpool’s rivals. Periko’s influence on his sons (both midfielders) was so great that Xabi inherited his perfect pass. Ronald Koeman was one of Xabi’s early role models as a child. The former Barca star was Barcelona’s midfield general in the early 90’s. He scored the winner in Barca’s first UEFA Champions League victory (1992).

Xabi’s stock rose at Sociedad as many clubs were after him. In 2004, Madrid tried to sign him but things didn’t work out. He eventually joined Liverpool. Alonso immediately became a fan’s favourite when he joined The Reds. Steven Gerrard made most of the headlines for Liverpool but Alonso was the ‘technical brain’ of the team, the highlight of his career being the greatest comeback in football history to help Liverpool win the 2005 UEFA Champions League. Things have gone from bad to worse for Liverpool since Alonso’s departure. In the 5 years that he spent at Anfield, their worst position was 5th but in the last 2 seasons they were 7th and 6th. Xabi was their X-factor and he placed the team on the international radar. He became a better and more complete player in England. Real Madrid spent over €250 million on players like Ronaldo, Kaka, Benzema, Alonso and Arbeloa (Los Galacticos II). Madrid dished out €30 million for the World Cup winner. Iñaki Sáez gave him his national team debut in 2003 against Ecuador (4-0). Three years ago in Switzerland and Austria, La Furia Roja won their first ever international title. Xabi wasn’t a first team player for Spain as he came on for Cesc Fabregas in the final of that tournament. Since then, he has become a key player in Spain’s team and he had an excellent World Cup.

 

Alonso is one of those intelligent midfielders capable of dictating a game, keeping the ball moving forward and ensuring his team keeps possession. Xabi is Spain’s X-factor.

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