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.