Here’s a question for you. Who is Real Madrid’s most important player? Many of you will reply Ronaldo or maybe Higuain who bang in the goals in what seems to be a ten minute basis. Or perhaps you feel its playmaker Di Maria, whose assists this season have been nothing short of sublime. Maybe you’re a fan of the defence and the ever present lion Sergio Ramos is your man of choice. Or you may be a Liverpool fan and reply Xabi Alonso, whose departure you have never really recovered from. Here I agree with you.
In Alonso, you have a man at the very heart of Real’s team. An ever present, the boy is certainly one of Mourinho’s core players and an untouchable. He dictates the tempo at which Los Blancos play and provides a shield in front of the back four, slotting in should a player make a run forward and not be able to get back in time. Add to this the sublime vision and range of passing Alonso possesses and you have a very special player.
Yes Real’s front three are vital – Ronaldo scores for fun, and would be an immense loss if struck by injury or suspension, yet Real would be able to cope without him. They are in possession of such a wealth of creative, goal scoring players who are able to change a game in a second, and really make the difference in tight games. Should Higuain get injured, there is Benzema. If Ozil succumbs to fatigue or loss of form there is Kaka. If Khedira is out of favour, there is Lass.
Likewise in defence, should Pepe, a man who pays his disciplinary fines by direct debit they occur so often, be serving a three match ban, there is Carvalho, Ramos, Varane… You get the picture. The strength in depth at the Santiago Bernabeau is frightening – well if you’re Barcelona that is.
But with the risk of sounding like a cult chant, there is only one Xabi Alonso, and Real know it. Last season, when opposition teams clocked on to how Alonso was the one to make Real tick, they near enough man marked the Spaniard, and Real struggled to function.
Alonso is the deep seated creative outlet that Real rely so heavily on, and is it any wonder, with the player’s distribution of the ball one of the best – if not the best – in world football. Not only this, but Alonso also possesses the ability to see what others are about to do, and can anticipate where he needs to be in order to block an opposition shot or pass.