I think I’ve lost count of the number of pictures I have saved on my phone of Xabi Alonso during his Liverpool tenure. Maybe it’s for nostalgic reasons because it reminds me of the best Liverpool team I’ve seen in my 20+ years. Hmm, nah, it’s not necessarily nostalgia, as if it were there’d also be pictures of Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano, Yossi Benayoun, Jamie Carragher etc. But with the headlines today of Alonso cryptically announcing his retirement from football on social media; it made me realise I’m just now old enough to appreciate Alonso’s brilliance at Liverpool.
Lived it. Loved it.
Farewell beautiful game. pic.twitter.com/1aSN7GGNzZ
— Xabi Alonso (@XabiAlonso) March 9, 2017
Actually, immaturity isn’t the sole reason either, my Britishness definitely is a quantifier for my lack realisation of our then number 14’s ungodly abilities. My Britishness clouded my vision when Steven Gerrard would sprint to the Kop end in celebration after a clean finish that Alonso had engineered. My Britishness thwarted my acknowledgement for Alonso’s ability to defuse play and promptly start an offensive move that would result with a winning goal. My Britishness infringed on my logic when I’d list my favourite Liverpool players and omit Alonso due to his lack of athleticism and because he was as slow as a crawling baby. And most importantly and most ashamedly my Britishness allowed me to think Rafa Benitez made the right decision in trying to force Alonso out of Liverpool in order to get Gareth Barry in 2008.
Now I sit here 24 and if I had the opportunity to meet the 14/15/16-year-old me I’d probably Rock Bottom him before I went on a relentless rally on why Xabi Alonso is our best player. Yes, Steven Gerrard was the influencer and enforcer, the captain fantastic and embodiment of Liverpool Football Club. But Alonso was the catalyst behind why we were so good in the mid to late ’00s. His coolness, precision passing, anticipation, ability to dictate tempo and most importantly his clarity in what he was doing provided something that Liverpool have lacked since he left for Real Madrid in 2009: organisation. Alonso provides the stability that all teams need and there’s no doubt in my mind Alonso was one of the main instruments in Real Madrid and Bayern Munich winning all the trophies they have with Alonso. So I want to say sorry Xabi for my Britishness and immaturity, you’re a Liverpool legend and the greatest player to play for us during your time at Liverpool. YNWA.