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Xabi Alonso
XabiAlonso.jpg
Personal information
Full name Xabier Alonso Olano
Date of birth 25 November 1981 (1981-11-25) (age 28)
Place of birth Tolosa, Spain
Height 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)
Playing position Midfielder
Club information
Current club Real Madrid
Number 22
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1999–2004 Real Sociedad 119 00(9)
2000–2001 SD Eibar (loan) 014 00(0)
2004–2009 Liverpool 138 0(15)
2009– Real Madrid 023 00(1)
National team
2000 Spain U18 001 00(0)
2002–2003 Spain U21 009 00(0)
2003– Spain 066 00(7)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 14 March 2010.

† Appearances (Goals).

‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 3 March 2010

Xabier "Xabi" Alonso Olano (born 25 November 1981 in Tolosa, Basque Country, Spain) is a Spanish footballer who plays for Spanish club Real Madrid and the Spanish national team. He is a midfielder, often playing as a deep-lying playmaker. He is known for his vision, and his ability to read the game and deliver long-distance passes. He is also considered as one of the best passers in the world.

Alonso began his career at Real Sociedad, and after a brief loan period at SD Eibar returned to the La Liga club. John Toshack appointed Alonso as his team captain and Alonso succeeded in the role, taking Real Socieded to second place in the 2002–03 season. The Spaniard moved to Liverpool in August 2004 for £10.5 million. He won the UEFA Champions League in his first season at the club. The following season he won the FA Cup, and subsequently also the FA Community Shield. He moved to Real Madrid for the start of the 2009–10 season, in a deal worth around £30 million.

Internationally, Alonso has represented Spain in the Euro 2004, Euro 2008 tournaments and the 2006 World Cup. He made his international debut in April 2003 in a 4–0 victory against Ecuador. He won the Euro 2008 tournament with Spain.

He holds the record for the longest-range goal ever scored in open play in the Premier League, being some 61 yards away from Steve Harper's line when he netted against Newcastle United in 2006. The season before, he scored from 78 yards with an effort against Luton Town at Kenilworth Road in the FA Cup.

Contents

Biography

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Early life

Alonso was born into a family known for its footballing prowess. His father, 'Periko' Alonso won the Spanish league twice in successive seasons with Real Sociedad and a third time after he moved to FC Barcelona. He also featured in the national team, winning 20 caps over the course of his career.[1] Born in Tolosa, a small Basque town, Xabi Alonso lived in Barcelona for the first six years of his life and moved to San Sebastián thereafter. It was here that his passion for football began as he whiled away his childhood playing at Playa de la Concha (Shell Beach).[1] On the Basque sands Alonso befriended a fellow resident of Calle Matia, Mikel Arteta, and the two would battle each other in exhibitions of technical ability.[2] He was immersed in football and his father would often bring him and his older brother, Mikel, to CE Sabadell FC's training ground to practise together. Alonso was influenced by his father's playing, taking more pleasure in passing the ball well than shooting at goal.[3] At an early age he decided to play as a defensive midfielder: a role which helped him learn how to distribute the ball well. This talent would later prove to be an integral part of his club and international career.[1]

When he was 15, Alonso went to the Irish town of Kells to learn English;[4] while there, he became exposed to the game of Gaelic football, and he would play with some of the local children.[5] He still retains a soft spot for the Meath GAA side.[6]

Alonso and Arteta were ambitious and dreamed of playing alongside each other for Real Sociedad when they were older. Though they attended different schools, the two young players joined forces at the local youth side Antiguoko, playing games at the weekend. Their performances attracted the attention of scouts from top Spanish sides and the young Donostiarras separated ways, ending nine years of friendly rivalry, as Alonso went to feeder club Real Sociedad and Arteta moved to Catalan giants Barcelona.[7] However, Alonso's move to Real Sociedad was not a companionless one as he was joined by his older brother

Real Sociedad

Under the guidance of John Toshack, Alonso's captaincy marked a resurgence of form for Real Sociedad. Toshack recognised Alonso's potential and invested much time in his young captain, creating a training method designed to improve his touch and control specifically for him.[8] The team cemented their mid-table position in the 2001–02, finishing in 13th place. Alonso appeared consistently in La Liga with 30 appearances over the course of the season and also scored his first league goal, finishing with a season total of 3. Real Sociedad's management changed again in the summer of 2002 with the arrival of Raynald Denoueix but Alonso kept his place in the first team on the strength of his past performance.[9]

The 2002–03 season was the club's best league performance since the 1981-1982 season in which they won the league. The Basque team finished second, two points behind Real Madrid, setting a club record for their highest ever points total and qualifying for the UEFA Champions League for the first time. Alonso received much praise for his role in the team's success and was given the Best Spanish Player award by Spanish sports magazine Don Balón.[10] In addition, Alonso significantly contributed to the team's goal tally, scoring 12 goals in all competitions.[11] His performances earned Alonso national repute and Iñaki Sáez, the coach of the Spanish national team, called him up for La Selección. Alonso made his international debut in April 2003 in a 4–0 friendly win over Ecuador.[12] Sáez raved over Alonso saying: "He has a fantastic range of accurate passing [and] sees football with an extraordinary clarity".[1]

The 2003–04 season comprised mixed results for Alonso and his San Sebastián club. Alonso revelled in the opportunity to perform in Europe, appearing in all the team's games, and Real Sociedad qualified for the knockout phase of the Champions League. However, the team struggled under the pressure of the extra matches and were promptly knocked out of the tournament by Lyon and finished 15th in La Liga.[11] The combination of Alonso's outstanding performances and the team's poor league finish made a move away from Estadio Anoeta inevitable. Despite interest from La Liga champions Real Madrid, Alonso remained committed to Real Sociedad.[1] Madrid failed to meet the £13 million price tag that Jose Luis Astiazaran, the Real Sociedad president, had placed on Alonso and the deal reached a stalemate.[11]

Alonso had other concerns and focused on international duty with Spain at the Euro 2004 tournament. He made a substitute appearance in Spain's 1–0 victory against Russia and played a full 90 minutes against Portugal. However, Alonso was deprived of the prospect of further appearances after Spain failed to progress from the group stage — usurped by finalists Greece and Portugal.[12] Despite the fact that Alonso's appearance at the tournament was brief, he caught the attention of retired footballer Jan Molby who was impressed with his precise passing abilities.[1]

The summer transfer window at Real Sociedad saw the arrival of Alonso's childhood friend Mikel Arteta.[13] Arteta was ecstatic at the prospect of partnering Alonso in midfield but his excitement was short lived.[2] Alonso was not picked for Real Sociedad's pre-season friendlies, signalling that an offer by Liverpool was being treated seriously.[13] The Basque side announced on 20 August 2004 that they had made a deal worth £10.7 million with Liverpool and Alonso had agreed terms with the Merseyside team.[14][15] Alonso did not lament the fact that a move to Real Madrid had not materialised. Instead he concentrated on integrating with the new Spanish contingent at Liverpool under the guidance of, ex-Valencia coach, Rafael Benítez.[1]

Liverpool

2004–05: Champions League victory

Alonso's arrival at Liverpool, along with Luis García from FC Barcelona, marked the beginning of a new era at Anfield. Liverpool's new coach Rafael Benítez sought to revolutionise the club and completely overhauled the squad, impressing his own management style and tactics upon the team.[16] The technical Spaniards were Benítez's first signings and he remarked that their emphasis of skill over strength offered something different to the team.[15][17] Alonso made his Premiership debut for the Merseysiders against Bolton Wanderers at The Reebok Stadium on 29 August 2004.[14] Liverpool lost the fixture 1–0 but Alonso was already receiving praise for his passing skills from the press.[18] A Premier League tie against Fulham displayed more of Alonso's talents. Liverpool were losing 2–0 at half-time and Benítez brought on Alonso as a substitute after the break. His arrival revived a deflated Liverpool and the game finished 4–2 to the Merseyside team.[19] Furthermore, Alonso scored from a free kick to bring Liverpool ahead of the opposition — his first goal for the team.[20]

Alonso playing against Real Betis in the Champions' League.

Alonso continued to provide important goals for the club, scoring his first goal at Anfield against Arsenal in a 2–1 victory.[21] Alonso was elated at the achievement and felt he was settling in well in England.[22] The Arsenal game marked the return of Steven Gerrard from injury but Alonso's midfield partnership with the team captain came to a halt when Alonso suffered his first setback at Liverpool. Alonso's ankle was broken following a tackle from Frank Lampard in Liverpool's 1-0 defeat against Chelsea on New Year's Day 2005 and the Spaniard was ruled out of action for three months.[23][24]

He made his return to the first team in the second leg of the Champions League quarter final against Juventus. Alonso was not at full fitness but, as Steven Gerrard was injured, he played for the full 90 minutes and Liverpool held the score at 0–0 in Italy, defeating the eventual Italian Champions on aggregate.[25] Kevin McCarra of The Guardian paid testament to Alonso's skill and dedication to the game, saying: "This marvellously accomplished footballer testified in the Stadio delle Alpi that technique can overcome a serious physical disadvantage".[26] In the next round against Chelsea, Alonso received a yellow card in a tense and scrappy 0–0 draw at Stamford Bridge, making him suspended for the following fixture.[27] Alonso was distraught that he would miss the game and vehemently contested the referee's decision to no avail.[28][29] Gerrard returned from injury for the second leg, however, and the captain steered his team to a 1–0 win with the help of a Luis García goal, qualifying for the final against A.C. Milan.[30]

Liverpool's fifth place finish in the Premiership left much to be desired but debut season glory still awaited Alonso in the form of the Champions League final. The team fell three goals behind Milan but completed a dramatic second-half comeback.[31] Liverpool, trailing 3–2, were awarded a penalty and it was decided that Alonso would take the spot kick. While Dida, Milan's acclaimed Brazilian goalkeeper, managed to save the penalty Alonso fired the rebound into the roof of the net, bringing the score to 3–3.[32] Extra time passed without a goal from either team and Liverpool won 3–2 in the penalty shootout.[33] Alonso was praised for his pivotal influence on the team's comeback and manager Benítez reinforced his importance to the team.[34][35][36] Alonso was ecstatic with the win, commenting: "This is the best moment in my professional career".[37] This marked a very successful first year in England for Alonso and victory in the final of the biggest European club competition signified a bright future for the 23-year-old.

2005–06: FA Cup winner

Alonso taking a corner kick for Liverpool.

Alonso was ever-present in the first team in the 2005–06 season, largely avoiding injuries that had marred his first season at the club. The summer transfer window brought Peter Crouch to Liverpool and the striker's height sparked accusations that the team would change to long ball tactics. Crouch denied this, highlighting that Alonso's passing ability, alongside Gerrard, would define Liverpool's style of play.[38] Alonso faced more competition for his place in the form of new arrival Mohamed Sissoko. However, Steven Gerrard's injuries and Rafael Benítez's favouring of a 4-5-1 formation ensured Alonso's place in the team. Alonso appeared in all of Liverpool's games in the Champions League but the dominance shown in the previous season had gone as the team lost to Benfica in the knockout stage.

On 7 January 2006, in an FA Cup third-round tie against Luton Town, Alonso assisted Liverpool to a 5–3 comeback victory after being down 3–1 early in the second half.[39] Alonso scored two impressive goals from distance: one from 35 yards, and the other 65 yards from goal; behind the half-way line.[14][40] Consequently, Alonso's goals marked a stroke of luck for a Liverpool fan who won £25,000 from a £200 bet on Alonso scoring from within his own half.[41] Alonso suffered an ankle injury in a 3–1 victory over Portsmouth, putting his participation in the FA Cup final in doubt.[42] However, he recovered sufficiently to start the game against West Ham United and Gerrard scored Liverpool's third goal from Alonso's free kick, pulling the team ahead of the opposition. Alonso, still affected by the injury, could not manage the whole 90 minutes and was substituted in the second half. Liverpool won on penalties without his help but Alonso still earned his first FA Cup winners' medal.[43]

Alonso was named in the Spanish squad for the 2006 World Cup and he scored Spain's first goal of the tournament, his first international goal, against Ukraine on 14 June 2006.[44] Despite a successful group phase, where Spain won all their games, Alonso did not achieve international glory as the team were beaten by the eventual finalists France in the first knockout stage of the tournament.[45]

2006–07 and 2007–08 seasons

Alonso with ex-teammate Dirk Kuyt at Liverpool.

On 20 September 2006 Alonso scored what the BBC described as "an outrageous strike" from his own half in a 2–0 Premiership win against Newcastle.[46] Andy Hunter of The Independent described it as "one of the most audacious goals in Anfield's rich 115-year history".[47] Alonso rebutted claims that his 70 yard goal was all down to luck and stated that he took long range shots as part of his training routine.[48] Despite the similarity of the goals struck from inside his own half, Alonso was in no doubt which was his best. He said, "I think this was better. The Luton goal bounced a few times, this one went quite straight. The Luton one was left-footed - it was different - but I am quite happy to score the goal."[49] It was his first goal for Liverpool since the goal against Luton, making it two consecutive goals from inside his own half of the pitch.[46]

On 8 June 2007 Alonso signed a five-year contract, undermining a flurry of transfer rumours. He had settled in well at Liverpool and after signing the contract extension he stated: "I knew there was interest from other clubs but it was always my idea to stay here. I have been here for three seasons now and have such special feelings for the club and the supporters. I understand what Liverpool means to so many people. It is such a special club and I just didn't want to leave."[50] The 2007–08 season started well for the Spaniard: Gerrard's absence led to Alonso playing in a more advanced position and he scored twice in a 6–0 rout against Premier League newcomers Derby County.[51][52] However, the bright beginning was short-lived as a minor injury sustained in a game against Portsmouth became aggravated in training.[53] The metatarsal injury forced him out of training for six weeks but his return to the first team was rushed and his injury recurred in his first game back. Alonso's determination and passion proved to be his downfall and he later reflected: "I had been feeling a bit tired around that time because it was only my first game back and the match was very fast. But as a player you don't want to come off, particularly when the team is winning and I stayed on."[54]

Alonso returned from injury at the end of 2007 but over the following months he increasingly faced competition for a place in midfield from Javier Mascherano and Lucas Leiva.[55][56] His role in Liverpool's five man midfield role was assured, however, as Rafael Benítez regarded him as "a top class player", stating that Alonso had the ability to change games and break down the opposition's defence.[57][58] Alonso made a landmark 100th league appearance for Liverpool on 12 January 2008 against Middlesbrough.[59]

Euro 2008 winner and 2008–09 season

Alonso playing for Spain.

Liverpool's 2007-08 season finished trophyless but the opportunity to win honours awaited Alonso in the form of the Euro 2008 tournament. Alonso featured mainly as a substitute but, with key players resting, he captained Spain in the final group game against Greece, earning the man of the match award.[60] Despite a strong performance, he could not attain a starting position in the team, highlighting Spain's strength in depth.[61] Spain went on to win the tournament and he featured in four of Spain's six matches.[62] Speaking to Guillem Balague, he said that Spain's victory was deserved and the players' teamwork had been crucial to the team's undefeated run in the tournament. The Basque was ecstatic at the achievement, declaring "Right now, we’re all just living the moment. It’s incredible and we’re all walking around in a dream. It’s fantastic".[63] Alonso's international success continued as he scored twice in a 0–3 win in a friendly against Denmark in August.[64]

The 2008 summer transfer window suggested a move away from Merseyside as Liverpool pursued England international Gareth Barry to replace Alonso.[65] By the start of the 2008–09 season, neither Alonso or Barry had moved club but the drawn-out transfer saga had left the Spaniard feeling unsettled at Liverpool and unsure of his position in the team.[66][67] However, the club's fans did much to restore his spirits, supporting him on and off the pitch, and Alonso responded to this, saying:

"[The fans] couldn't have done more to show me how they felt... If I went out for lunch or a coffee, there was always someone who would come over and say, 'We'd love you to stay'. I'm just glad that, in the end, nothing came of it [the transfer] because it wasn't something I ever asked for."[68]

Despite the events of the summer, Alonso made a confident start to the season and both his peers and the press praised his strength of character, citing his influence as a factor in the team's strong opening to the season.[68][69] Alonso's importance to the team was further underlined when he scored the only goal in a 1–0 victory against Chelsea, making Liverpool the first away team to win at Stamford Bridge in over four years.[70] Statistical analysis reflected Alonso's good form: on 11 December figures from Opta revealed that he was the first Premier League player to complete 1000 successful passes in the season.[71] His last goal for Liverpool came in their match against Hull, scoring a volley after his own free kick hit the Hull City wall.

Real Madrid

Alonso handed in a transfer request in late July and completed a £30 million move to Real Madrid on 5 August 2009. He was handed the number 22 jersey in Madrid and continues to play in a holding midfield position. It is believed that Alonso never wanted to leave Liverpool, with his contract existing until at least 2012, but differences with the Liverpool Manager Rafael Benitez during the start of 2008-09 season made him think otherwise.[72][73][74] Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard attributed the Liverpool's poor run of form at the start of the 2009–10 season to the departure of Alonso, and revealed he was devastated upon hearing of Alonso's decision.[75] Alonso scored his first goal for Real Madrid on 21 February 2010, scoring the final goal of the match, a penalty against Villareal in a 6-2 win.[76]

Personal life

Alonso was regarded as a quiet and friendly person by his former teammates at Liverpool.[77] He is married to Nagore Aranburu and the couple had their first child on 11 March 2008; a boy named Jontxu Alonso Aranburu.[78][79] Alonso stayed in Merseyside to be at her side while she gave birth, later saying: "It was a little frustrating to miss the match against Inter but I have to be with my family at times like these."[80] However, this caused much friction with manager Rafa Benítez as this meant he could not pick him for the important Champions League tie against the Milanese side and the two were at odds over Alonso's decision.[81][82][83]

Alonso and Everton player Mikel Arteta were neighbours on the same street while growing up in San Sebastián and also lived near each other in Liverpool.[84] Alonso convinced Arteta to transfer to Everton after he told him how happy he was living in Liverpool.[85] Alonso also helped persuade former Real Sociedad team mate Juan Ugarte to make a move to Wales by joining Wrexham in 2004.[86]

His brother, Mikel Alonso, spent a season on loan at Bolton Wanderers in the 2007–08 season with an option for a permanent deal.[87][88] However, the team opted not to extend the loan deal and he returned to Spain to train with Xabi Alonso's former club, Real Sociedad.[89] Alonso also has another brother involved in football, Jon, who works as a referee.[90]

Statistics

Club career

Club performance League Cup League Cup Continental Total
Season Club League Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Spain League Copa del Rey Copa de la Liga Europe Total
1999–00 Real Sociedad La Liga 5 0 1 0 N/A 0 0 6 0
2000–01 Eibar Segunda División 14 0 0 0 N/A 0 0 14 0
2000–01 Real Sociedad La Liga 17 0 0 0 N/A 0 0 17 0
2001–02 30 3 0 0 N/A 0 0 30 3
2002–03 32 3 1 0 N/A 0 0 33 3
2003–04 35 3 0 0 N/A 8 1 43 4
England League FA Cup League Cup Europe Total
2004–05 Liverpool Premier League 24 2 0 0 0 0 8 1 32 3
2005–06 35 3 5 2 0 0 11 0 51 5
2006–07 32 4 1 0 2 0 15 0 50 4
2007–08 19 2 3 0 1 0 4 0 27 2
2008–09 31 4 1 0 1 0 10 1 43 5
Spain League Copa del Rey Copa de la Liga Europe Total
2009–10 Real Madrid La Liga 23 1 0 0 N/A 7 0 30 1
Total Spain 156 11 2 0 - 15 1 173 12
England 141 15 10 2 4 0 48 2 203 19
Career Total 294 26 12 2 4 0 62 3 372 31
  • Last updated 14 March 2010

International career

National team Season Apps Goals
Spain
2002–03  ? 0
2003–04  ? 0
2004–05 5 0
2005–06 10 1
2006–07 8 0
2007–08 10 0
2008–09 14 6

Last updated 14 November 2009

Xabi Alonso: International goals
# Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 2006-06-14 Zentralstadion, Leipzig, Germany  Ukraine 1–0 4–0 2006 FIFA World Cup
2 2008-08-20 Parken Stadium, Denmark  Denmark 1–0 3–0 Friendly
3 2008-08-20 Parken Stadium, Denmark  Denmark 3–0 3–0 Friendly
4 2009-04-01 Ali Sami Yen Stadium, Turkey  Turkey 1–1 2–1 2010 World Cup Qualifier
5 2009-06-28 Royal Bafokeng Stadium, South Africa  South Africa 3–2 3–2 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup
6 2009-11-14 Vicente Calderon Stadium, Spain  Argentina 1–0 2–1 Friendly
7 2009-11-14 Vicente Calderon Stadium, Spain  Argentina 2–1 2–1 Friendly

Honours

Club

Country

Individual

References

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External links


Simple English

Xabi Alonso
[[File:|150px]]
Personal information
Full name Xabier Alonso Olano
Date of birth 25 November 1981 (1981-11-25) (age 29)
Place of birth    Tolosa, Spain
Height 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)
Playing position Midfielder
Club information
Current club Real Madrid
Number 22
Senior clubs
Years Club
1999-2004
2000-2001
2004-2009
2009-
Real Sociedad
→Eibar (loan)
Liverpool
Real Madrid
National team
2003- Spain

Xabi Alonso (born 25 November 1981) is a Spanish football player, plays for Real Madrid. He used to play in the Spanish League for a club called Real Sociedad.

Club career statistics

Club Performance League CupLeague CupContinentalTotal
SeasonClubLeague AppsGoals AppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoals
SpainLeague Copa del Rey Copa de la Liga EuropeTotal
1999/00Real SociedadLa Liga5010-0060
2000/01EibarSegunda División14000-00140
2000/01Real SociedadLa Liga17000-00170
2001/0230300-00303
2002/0332310-00333
2003/0435300-81434
EnglandLeague FA Cup Football League Cup EuropeTotal
2004/05LiverpoolPremier League242000081323
2005/063535200110515
2006/073241020150504
2007/08192301040272
2008/093141010101435
SpainLeague Copa del Rey Copa de la Liga EuropeTotal
2009/10Real MadridLa Liga
CountrySpain 133920-8114710
England 141151024048220319
Total 274241224056235029

International career statistics

[1]

Spain national team
YearAppsGoals
200350
2004110
200560
2006111
200760
2008142
2009124
2010
Total657

References


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