Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
Xabi Alonso’s 30th birthday on Friday has prompted an avalanche of praise for the Real Madrid midfielder and has also served to highlight the former Liverpool man’s importance in coach Jose Mourinho’s plans for Spanish and European domination.
Widely regarded as one of the finest players of his generation, as well as one of the most astute purchases by big-spending Real president Florentino Perez, the quietly-spoken Alonso has gone from strength to strength since joining Real for a fee of 35 million euros ($47 million) at the end of the 2008-09 season.
Spraying passes around the pitch from the centre of midfield with consumate ease and unleashing a crunching tackle when necessary, he is the well-oiled cog at the heart of Mourinho’s Real machine and it would be hard to see them mounting a realistic challenge to great rivals Barcelona without him.
Mourinho has used him more than any other player this season, more even than captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
Three Premier League defeats in four games and Champions League last 16 qualification compromised. The last few weeks have been very tough for Chelsea coach Andre Villas-Boas.
Previous managers Jose Mourinho, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Avram Grant and Carlo Ancelotti were dismissed seemingly for less by ruthless owner Roman Abramovich.
Unproven at the very top level and having always shown a penchant for a leaky three at the back, the former Genoa boss was undoubtedly not Inter’s first choice when Leonardo left after only six months to seek a new challenge in the boardroom at Paris St Germain.
Jose Mourinho was given a rapturous reception by the Real Madrid faithful when his side entertained Galatasaray in a friendly on Wednesday.
It was a show of unity likely to leave club president Florentino Perez in no doubt that whatever reservations he might have over his stubbornly controversial coach the majority of Madrid supporters love him.
Unlike his mentor Jose Mourinho, Andre Villas Boas does not have a Champions League title on his resume as he moves to Chelsea but he ticks every other box on the London club’s wishlist.
The 33-year-old’s short career — which spans just 20 months as head coach — and lack of Champions League experience means he is a gamble for Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, for whom clinching Europe’s top club trophy seems to have become an obsession.
In our latest post on Spanish soccer, Iain Rogers in Madrid muses on the brilliance of the peerless Xavi and Real Madrid’s decision to hand more power to coach Jose Mourinho at the expense of sacked director general Jorge Valdano.
Xavi’s Wembley tears turn to triumph
Lionel Messi rightly grabbed most of the headlines for his latest European masterclass in Barcelona’s 3-1 Champions League final humbling of Manchester United on Saturday.
Mourinho begins strengthening for next season
Jose Mourinho has acquired the first new weapon in his arsenal for the 2011/12 campaign as his Real Madrid side seek to loosen Barcelona’s stranglehold over the domestic title and dream of a 10th triumph in Europe’s elite club competition.
In our latest Monday post on Spanish soccer, Iain Rogers in Barcelona muses on the ill-tempered Champions League clash between arch rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid and the possible repercussions for the Spanish national team and looks at the unrivalled brilliance of World Player of the Year Lionel Messi.
Bad Spanish blood boils over into Champions League “Clasico”
Last week’s Champions League semi-final first leg between Real Madrid and Barcelona made headlines for all the wrong reasons.
The Champions League is the biggest club competition in the world and generally where players peak, so Wednesday’s semi-final first leg should be the best of the recent encounters between the Spanish rivals.
They might be running away with the Premier League title and facing a side who are 10th in their own table (ok, those portents look pretty rosy), but they have come unstuck the last two times they have lined up against German rivals in the semi-finals.