“The Pass Master.”
Not just a mere title, Xabi Alonso is the personification of perfection when it came to passing.
In a time before stats made a player, his superb ability on the ball was mind-blowing. Accurate passing truly defined him. His time at Liverpool had passed a long while ago, yet he is remembered as if he had never left.
Some are saying that even now, in the twilight of his career, there is no one in central midfield currently at Liverpool better than him now… not 5 years ago…now!
I am not a fan of the man who took the captaincy from Gerrard, just as much as I can barely tolerate the man who took his now famous number 14. (Yep, its the same guy.) Those 40 yard passes pinged across with pin point accuracy… Those much documented long distance goals that are played over and over again on social media platforms. Its not a slight on Henderson and the current crop of central midfielders, but they just simply can’t even compare to the laces on his boots, in terms of sheer ability on the ball.
I remember during the World Cup time in South Africa where we would travel to all parts of the country to watch the best players in the world do their thing. I saw many goals, many moments of brilliance but somehow watching him boss the midfield LIVE was like a myth turned into reality. As he looked up getting ready to ping another lofted through ball, I’d look in the distance of the player he was “aiming” to pass to. I’d say in my mind: “Naah he wont find him…and before my words could even turn cold, the ball would fly through the air, like a circular navigation device, it had reached its destination. The amazing part is that it was not a once of feat, he would do it over and over again , in a career that saw him plying his trade for many of the top clubs in Europe, with much success to boot.
In what will ultimately be a one of the biggest mysteries in world football, the man who brought him to Liverpool, Rafa Benitez, decided that Gareth Barry was a suitable replacement for Alonso. *Sigh* Brain Freeze moment of note, and one that to this day leaves Liverpool supporters wandering : “what if he had stayed?” Imagine how many more goals Suarez would’ve scored? Maybe we’d have won the league by now? Thinking back, Rafa dropped Alonso for two games and the Brazilian cost us 4 points in two games with his idiotic tackling. Alonso had always said that he would love to end off his career at Liverpool, something that the current owners , recent managers just somehow forgot or failed to even try to bring him back “home.”
Some make excuses that Benitez was simply working within the constantly shrinking lines during the leadership of Hicks and Gillet, the men who nearly led the fabled club to administration. It is all immaterial as nothing can be changed now.
You watch him bossing the midfield for Bayern and think: why couldn’t he still be doing it Anfield?
If Rafa’s blunder to let him go wasn’t painful enough, seeing him him glide smoothly through his career with no drop in class right up until his latest announcement just added further insult to injury. Alonso’s name will forever be etched in Anfield Folklore as one of the legends who brought home Champions League number Five to Merseyside. He of course scoring the equalising goal ( a rebound of a penalty that fortuitously rebounded back into his path) which completed the best comeback in a european final ever seen.
Jurgen Klopp will do well to bring him on board to coach the youngsters on the essences of passing and controlling the tempo’s of games, and maybe teach Jordan Henderson that forward is the best way to pass, and its not all about the stats.
I remember screaming his name in the -2 Degrees in Bloemfontein in 2009, as the Spanish team trained after the game. He gave a thumbs up and carried on his merry way.
Thumbs up to You, Xabi Alonso, Legend of Istanbul, Legend of Liverpool. Just a regular, cool guy saying goodbye to the beautiful game.