Thursday, 30 July 2009


SO Xabi Alonso's seemingly inevitable move to Real Madrid creeps ever closer with the news that the player has put in an official transfer request

The development appears to have been leaked by the club as it was reported in the Echo - and Alonso isn't speaking to English journalists right now.

He is speaking to Spanish journos though, and Guillem Balague is reporting on his site that the Alonso camp is denying the transfer request.

So the pantomime continues...

Either way, it's by the by - the situation hasn't changed. Either Real Madrid cough up the asking price, or Xabi will kick off the season in red.

If he does go, it looks like the vultures are already circling, desperate to apportion blame. But why does there need to be a scapegoat?

Benitez and Alonso hate each other. Have done for some time. Their relationship, at best, is a 'working' one.

Both have undoubtedly benefitted from the other though.

Xabi's stock as a footballer has obviously risen thanks to his five years at Anfield, while Benitez, certainly last season, can partly thank Alonso for the purring engine that was Liverpool's central midfield.

The club looks likely to benefit to the tune of £30million while the fans, of course, will never forget his goal in Istanbul.

But for two seasons previous to the last one, let's not forget Alonso wasn't tearing down trees.

And yet some say Benitez is the villain for looking for a replacement to improve the side, courting Gareth Barry and offering Xabi to Juventus.

Others say now that Alonso is out of order, for wanting to return to his homeland - to arguably the biggest club in Spain - and for, if true, putting in a transfer request to make it happen (even though Benitez asked him to).

I'm not happy that he is likely to go, particularly so close to the start of the season but I can understand why he wants to leave and why Rafa wants him to go.

And if it happens, it happens. Life goes on. Liverpool Football Club will still be there.

Yes, Alonso was good last season. Outstanding, in fact. But he is one player - he didn't finish second on his own.

While I agree with many comments I have seen that it is a very difficult task to replace Xabi, I don't believe it's an impossible one.

Because I think the point everyone is missing is that Benitez clearly has a new plan in mind.

Replacing Xabi like-for-like, is difficult. There's no-one that jumps out that is a similar type of player.

But maybe Rafa doesn't want a similar player. The 4-2-3-1 set up has served us well. But last season we lost the league because we drew too many games.

So maybe Rafa has new tactics in mind? Maybe two holding midfielders is a luxury we can't afford anymore - particularly at home.

Rafa certainly seemed to be hinting at a tactical shift earlier this month.

He said: "We want to improve our power in attack, this is our idea.

“There have been games in the past we have played with three centre backs and two offensive full backs, it depends on the game.

“But normally we play with a line of four in defence because this suits the way we play on both occasions.

“We were talking last season about the draws we had at home and when teams play really deep against you you need quality in the full back and central defensive positions.

“When we talk about Daniel Agger scoring goals and using the ball well it is because we know these qualities are necessary if you want to turn the draws into wins.”

So ignoring the rigidity of us definitely playing the same formation and needing 'another Xabi', things don't look so bad.

And much as I liked Alonso, and his wonderful passing, let's not forget the flaws in his game.

He didn't score enough goals. He wasn't great in the tackle.

So while it's unfortunate, it's not the end of the world if he leaves. And as for whose fault it is? Who cares!


fraggs said...

Finally, some sense from a blogger and fellow Liverpool fan. Football fans on the whole seem obsessed with apportioning blame for every little kink or minor event during a season when in reality these situations are often beyond any single person's control. Whatever happens, Liverpool are in the best position. We either keep a great player and retain our core team from last season or we get a big wad of cash and the opportunity to try something different. With Benitez in charge, coming up with new and effective tactics is something you can depend on. It's a win-win situation, the only downside being the negative press and the lateness of the final decision. But with Stevie G ready to slot straight back into that central role I don't see it being a major disruption. Even without Alonso we can produce brilliant football and who knows, his replacement might be the best buy of the season.

Anonymous said...

Well said, he will never be as wanted at his new club, ask McManaman and Owen.

Anonymous said...

I agree with this article. And would add one thing that many have not seen in the previous season. Although he runs a lot during a match, he is one of the slowest footballers in the premier league. I have seen too often, he has been relatively easy passed by a player with good pace, and he is coming jogging way behind. The reason this was not a complete disaster scenario, was that the window wiper Masch picked those ones up...

zahir said...

A good article based on sensible reasoning instead late evening city centre nonsense. If Rafa did not have a alternate plan he would not have tried desparately to off-load him last year and then expressed his frustration in public by blaming Parry for the Barry saga.

Anonymous said...

So, a midfielder with more pace and agression in front of the box could make even more momentum to break defending teams down. We need more alternatives up front to push and break stubborn teams down. This was not Xabi's best skills. Maybe this could be a blessing in discuise after all ?

robbohuyton said...

Fraggs, spot on. Benitez has done enough to be trusted, whether you like everything he has done or not. Even when I read the report about Cattermole, I thought it was a strange one - but maybe it's part of the tactical masterplan!
Anon - agree about his pace. He's been great, he settled in well, embraced Liverpool, and all in all seemed a decent bloke. But how many times have we replaced the irreplaceable? We'll do it again.

Anonymous said...

I think you're guilty of trying to rationalize Alonso's departure as a good thing when in reality its a bad call. The question is not whether we can survive without Alonso but simply whether we're better with or without him. For me this question is a no brainer. I've praised Rafa plenty of times when he deserved it but his handling of this whole Alonso thing has been piss poor and has without a doubt gravely weakened an area of the team where we had previously been very strong.

robbohuyton said...

Zahir - exactly. I don't believe for one minute that Benitez hasn't got something up his sleeve.
Just because it hasn't appeared in the press for once doesn't mean something isn't happening.
I actually preferred the days when the first thing you knew about a signing was when he was stood there with the manager in front of the photographers - maybe it's a return to the good old days!
And Anon re blessing in disguise, let's hope so.

robbohuyton said...

I don't argue against the point that we are weaker without Alonso in the squad than with him in it after the season he has just had.
But let's not forget the season preceding that.
When you say his handling of it, do you mean now - or generally? His handling of it lately I don't know what else he could of done - the player wants to go, Madrid want him - all he could do is hold for the best money really, which is he doing.
And if they don't pay, he stays.
You don't say how you think he should of handled it?

Starvin Marvin said...

Excellent work. Proper article.

Anonymous said...

its all very well, unless masch takes note and follows suit. alonso gone - it can be sorted. masch gone - horrendous but something can be jigged.

both is unthinkable.

this is the only thing that worries me about this whole mess and we have another month of the window left.

robbohuyton said...

Both of them going would be a nightmare. I like Jay Spearing though, he's a neat and tidy player. Not sure he's ready for a full season in centre mid though - but he's on the fringes on merit. If we needed to patch up and see it out 'til January, he could do a job.

Anonymous said...

At last some common sense!

I am not exactly happy that Alonso is going but nobody is bigger than the club

Last season could have been a flash in the pan by his standards, he is a great player but has a tendency to slip back into indifferent form like the seasons before last. OR if he gets injured for half of the season then WHAT?

Lets be analytical.. Alonso does miss a lot of chances (beauties they may be) he isnt a matchwinner like Gerrard, we need more attacking thrust.

If we get a number of players then this will strengthen the squad as a whole. I am hoping for some player exhchanges plus some clever wheeling dealing by rafa.

ie Mata instead of the obvious Silva

The media vultures make me sick and their anti-LFC stance has never been so obvious now that we are genuine contenders for the PL title.

saplo182 said...

trust rafa pal... before this who know x.alonso.. rafa have good technical to improve player.. yeah.. hope xabi can stay. hehe

Anonymous said...

Great article! How refreshing to read a balanced, well argued opinion.
Rafa picked up Xabi from relative obscurity after all and has turned him into a better player worth about .... well lets say 30 million pounds. He is entitled to be compensated for what he feels is the player's value, not based on how many shirts he sells but his performance on the field.
I don't agree that he was handled poorly last year when Rafa wanted to sell him. It was all very proffessional, in my opinion, and not unlike how most managers would have handled it. The press made it out differently as usual.
Whatever happens, Rafa has my trust. He does not leave things to chance. There is always plan B,C and D..........

Paul Grech said...

Well said. If Alonso thinks he will be better of at Real rather than Anfield - and forgetting the shows of support that he received throughout last season - then good luck to him. Provided that Real pay what we want rather than what they think.

Anonymous said...

Time to move on and swiftly. Thank you Xabi for 2 sensational seasons. Let's not get into the ones where he didn't perform.

There is no place for sentiment if you want to win silverware. Football is unforgiving! I was one of the fans calling for the sale of Xabi last season despite him being one of my favourite players. Why? He wasn't performing and possibly took his starting place for granted.

Last seasons ongoing saga was the kick up the butt that he needed. Make no mistake, I am disappointed that he may leave us but its not the end of the world. We have options and we will continue to improve under Rafa.

Makes me think of Owen leaving us for Real to supposedly win silverware. And what happens? As soon as he leaves we win the CL with one of the worst Liverpool sides in our history. We are on the verge of great things. Alonso will rue the day he left us!

Chad said...

May you continue to write well articulated, well reasoned articles! I've been sick of the press and this transfer season so much that the journalism has turned into drible and all I hear in my head is the Charlie Brown parents "whaa whaa whaa whaa." Keep it up and please don't stray into the crap that is (mostly) everywhere else!

Anonymous said...

Xabi is irreplaceable, even for 40 million pounds. He makes the team tick and allows Stevie, Torres and the wingers to play with the freedom of not having to track back and look for the ball, as Xabi is a master at delivering passes where he pleases and how far and short seemed good to me. Benitez is a great manager but I cannot agree with the way one of one our best and most loyal players was touted around europe last season like a cheap whore. Surely, players are human beings afterall and I can understand Xabi's frustration and sense of being betrayed and belittled.
Nevertheless, like you've all been saying above, the club is biggest and any player can be replaced...if a player has not direct replacement, then tactics and system can be changed to accomodate someone else...maybe we could benefit from more goals from a more attacking minded player ( Aquilani?, Sneider), and a DF like Masch is enough ..
Anyway need to get back to work
Hopefully this is resolved as soon as as today itself and we can move on.

Anonymous said...

We will be in much more trouble if Mascherano leaves.

Having said that, I think Micah Richards could be turned into a pretty impressive midfielder with the right coaching. I know City don't ever need to sell a player ever again (why else would they still have Bellamy?) but if we get good money for Xabi, then it would be worth asking about Richards, surely?

Anonymous said...

This is eaily the most balanced assessment that I've read of the Alonso situation.

Well done.

Anonymous said...

Who's to say that rafa is repeating last season to get the extra 2% out of alonso ??

Real have to sell and unless they come up with the cash alonso is going nowhere

why are people constantly talking about as if he has left?

I have a massive feeling of deja vu as this happened last season Barry/Alonso saga

till he is paraded in a white shirt it hasnt happened

Rich said...

Good article Robbo but I've been thinking more and more about the whole issue of Xabi saying he wants to join Real. Imagine - hypothetically of course as it's almost certain that he will - that Alonso made all the right noise about joining Los Blancos and it never came off. Gareth Barry fell into that trap and life at Villa Park wasn't the same for him after we didn't snap him up. Alonso's been very clever by not nailing his colours to the Bernabeu mast and even today played it straight down the middle.

After finding out about the talks between us and Real, he said: “I decided long ago to stay away from everything that is happening. My position in the matter has been very clear and everyone knows it.

“I am a professional and I am ready to accept whatever agreement is reached. I just hope that it is resolved soon, for better or for worse.”

He's covered his arse quite well here I must say.

Anonymous said...

Exactly so until he signs for Real there is no point talking about him as if he has already left.

My theory is that an agreement has been done in principle for next season hence the low fees reported in the media. This will suit both parties and allow rafa more time to find a replacement. it is worrying that the season kicks off in two weeks.

If Xabi plays it right he could leave the club as a legend.

robbohuyton said...

Nice theory - but can't see it. One of the key points is the falling out between Rafa and Alonso. They haven't got a relationship.

Both men will say the right thing to the press, they're not stupid. But they are only saying it because they both know the deal is relying on Real coughing up the asking price.

If it was up to Alonso and Benitez (i.e. the money was on the table) Xabi would already be in Madrid.

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