WE ARE GOING LIVE... Tune in to HOOLIGAN HOUR on the Duquesne University Student Radio, streaming live on, every Wednesday night from 11pm to 12 am.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Alonso Transfer is Defensive Deal of the Summer

            In a summer highlighted by big spending for attack-minded players, Xabi Alonso’s move from Liverpool to Real Madrid is the most significant transfer concerning the defensive side of play this offseason.  The latest, and supposed last purchase for Real Madrid’s Los Galacticos revival, the Spanish international has left Liverpool for a 30 million euro fee.  Alonso is a tremendous addition for the Spanish giants, while his departure from Anfield is a crushing blow to the Reds.

            While listed as a central midfielder, Alonso is quite talented in a holding role, providing a unique combination of playmaking abilities with solid defensive tactics.  At Liverpool, Alonso’s contribution as a defensive midfielder was crucial in freeing up space for his teammates in front of him, and it looks like he will perform similar duties at Real this coming season.  Real, while fancying the addition of new forward-trio Christiano Ronaldo, Kaka, and Karim Benzema, do have somewhat skimpy defensive forces.  However, defensively, Alonso’s inclusion into the squad may prove more significant than that of any other natural back-line player.

            Last season, Liverpool experienced enormous success with an inventive 4-2-3-1 formation, but it looks as if Real will steal their thunder this coming year.  The genius in such a set-up for the Reds was that, with two terrific defensive midfielders in Javier Mascherano and Alonso, himself, anchoring the middle of the field, Steven Gerrard was given the space and freedom to roam, while feeding the ball in to a deadly Fernando Torres up top.  As for Real, with a roster featuring many new personnel, it seems that they will sport a similar formation this season: Their back four should remain the same, with Alonso and Lassana Diarra in front.  From right to left, Ronaldo, Kaka, and either Sneijder or Robben (whomever is not sold) will play across the midfield.  And Benzema should be the lone striker (once Real find the least-unethical way to shoo Raul away from the club).  Surely, on paper this looks like Europe’s strongest squad.

            Things do not looks so good for Liverpool, though.  With Alonso’s departure, the Reds find themselves in a world of hurt.  Reports indicate that Alberto Aquilani of AS Roma is set to move to Anfield as Alonso’s replacement, yet he is admittedly not of the same quality as his predecessor.  Liverpool at least hope he should fit into Alonso’s abandoned defensive role.  If not, though, Steven Gerrard’s freedom to play-make will be limited.  This could be quite destructive to Liverpool’s intricately designed attack.

            Naturally, though, who can blame Alonso?  Apparently, moving to Spain at the expense of England is the trend this summer, and the Spaniard returns home part of a Real Madrid side poised to make history.  Now with a bit of defensive strengthening, ironically a foreign concept to Los Galacticos methods, Real look an even more threatening side for the 2009-10 campaign.


  1. I'd like to highlight something you mentioned in this article: Madrid's dealing with Raúl and Guti.

    Raúl is an exceptional player--one of the finest to have ever donned the white shirt. However, the emergence of Pipita Higuaín as a consistent scoring threat and the signing of Karim Benzema, one of the most exciting young forwards in the world, surely leaves him with no place. Yet, it seems as if every single coach is afraid to bench the captain, even if there are players who could bring more to the team.

    Guti is well past his prime. He used to have the ability to turn an entire game around with his vision and his passing, but in the last few years he seems to have lost fitness, vision, and quality in his touch. Yet, for some reason, Manuel Pellegrini has still been playing him this preseason.

    This year, Madrid's success will depend upon Pellegrini's handling of Raúl and Guti. The Chilean has to realize that Raúl can no longer be a starter if there are younger, better players like Benezema and Higuaín; and he has to somehow get the captain to accept that he will be playing a supporting role this season.

    As for Guti - I am absolutely shocked that they have not offloaded him. He is a waste of space on the pitch now - a shell of his former self. With the additions of Kaka', Xabi Alonso, and Esteban Granero, not to mention the possible emergence of Gago, there is no room for Guti in this squad - not even in a supporting role.

  2. Well-said, my friend. I was actually considering writing an article about Raul's placement in the Real squad. You, being a supporter of Los Merengues, may be able to answer this question for me: How do you tell your club's all-time leading scorer and current captain that there is no place for him in the squad? It seems absurd to suggest such a possibilty. You would think that as a club legend, Raul deserves a bit more respect than that. But in reality, as you said, he is undoubtedly second, maybe third-choice.

    And Guti, while not the same figure as Raul, is still the club's vice-captain, so it still may be a bit difficult to shoo him away so unethically.

    You seem quite passionate about Real. If you have a little free time, you should type up a season preview article for your boys that I can post here on the site before the season starts in a couple weeks. I have a few friends that have interest in doing similar things for their clubs, too. I think it would be cool if we could get a few guest articles like that.

  3. As a die hard Liverpool Fan, it pains me to see this switch. Xabi was by far our best player last season. Yes, better than Torres, better than Gerrard. His range of passing controlled our midfield and made us dominate possession. We would not have reached 86 points in the league without him, especially with Torres and Gerrard being injured so frequently.
    I really can't blame him for his decision to move to Real. Liverpool tried to sell him last summer to raise funds for Barry, so we damaged our relationship with him then. And even with this incident, he never showed a lack of loyalty to Liverpool on the pitch. The move to Real is also understandable, as moving to one of the two clubs that will win La Liga next year would entice any Spanish footballer. Being a La Liga champion would certainly mean much more to him than to win the Premire League.
    As for Liverpool, it isn't the end of the world as the deal with Aquilani is almost completed, and he certainly will be a much needed addition to our midfield. I don't think he will as valuable to Liverpool as Xabi was, but could prove vital to any success Liverpool will have this season.
    Thank you Xabi for the five years, two Champions League Finals, and that goal in Istanbul. Y.N.W.A.

  4. And Will, if you would like a Season Preview for Liverpool, I would happily write one. Just let me know.

  5. Yeah, of course! Actually, I'm going to try to get a bunch of season previews for various clubs from some people. Definitely write one up for Liverpool that we can post here on the site. Thanks.