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.
It’s one of the most farcical scenes I’ve ever seen in soccer. Real Madrid duo Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos taking ages to take kicks in the 4-0 win at Ajax and getting second yellow cards for timewasting and hence being sent off.
Deliberate? They face automatic one-match suspensions in the final group game against Auxerre, which is a dead match for Real with the Spanish club already assured of first place in Group G and qualification for the last 16.
It may well be, then, that the signing of the impressive, energetic Glen Johnson at full-back turns out to be a more significant bit of transfer business than the much criticised decision to sell Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid.
Last November Spurs beat Liverpool 2-1 at White Hart Lane just after Harry Redknapp took over a side that had slumped to the bottom of the table. Redknapp admitted after that game that Spurs had been lucky to win after being battered by Liverpool, who squandered an early lead and then hit the woodwork three times before losing.
Spurs beat Liverpool 2-1 at White Hart Lane again on Sunday and this time there was no doubting that Spurs deserved their victory.
At last, Real Madrid have got their man. Liverpool agreed on Tuesday to sell Xabi Alonso, a Real target going back at least six years, for a reported 30 million euros.
It’s decent money for a player Rafa Benitez appeared happy enough to consider selling 12 months ago but Alonso is the sort of assured holder and passer of the ball who is hard to replace at any price.
Ever since returning to Serie A following their demotion for match-fixing, Juventus have had a terrible run in the transfer market.
Third and second-placed finishes in their two years back in the top flight are largely thanks to players who stuck with Juve during their season in Serie B such as Alessandro Del Piero and Giorgio Chiellini.
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez fought long and hard for greater control of the Anfield club’s transfer funds and first through the door since he agreed his new contract is Portsmouth’s Glen Johnson. He didn’t come cheap, either.
At a reported 17 million pounds, Johnson is an expensive acquisition for a player who never quite made it at Chelsea, and has only recently found success in the England team after raiding down Portsmouth’s right hand side last season.
Owen Wyatt has invested in new 3-D technology to provide a fresh look at Real Madrid chances of knocking Liverpool out of the Champions League.
Click on the video above to hear our views on the key battles at Anfield, and a look at what the Spanish papers and Real Madrid players are saying ahead of the match.