Xabi Alonso, a unique skillset and continued importance at Real Madrid

Spain international midfielder Xabi Alonso has ended speculation over his club future by putting pen-to-paper on a new two-year contract with Real Madrid.

The experienced deep-lying playmaker was linked with a return to the Premier League, where he came of age at Liverpool over five years, but will now potentially see it out the remainder of his career at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu.

Despite the capital city side’s continued pursuit of new talent and the latest galactico, Alonso’s extension is a massive boost for Carlo Ancelotti’s men.

The 32-year-old’s experience and influence cannot be understated, while his exploits with the Spanish national team have only served to make him an even better player.

Despite other central midfield options for Ancelotti including Luka Modrić, Asier Illarramendi and Sami Khedira, Alonso has something of a unique skillset at the club, and in the European game for that matter.

The veteran’s positional play and ability to control a game from a deep midfield position is something that few in world football can do as well as him, with Alonso and Andrea Pirlo masters of orchestrating their team’s play.

Xabi AlonsoHis range of passing and ability to unleash the more dynamic and attack-minded players in the Madrid side is something that would take some replicating. Despite playing the majority of the game in front of his side’s back four, Alonso’s part in the collective attacking ethos of the sides he plays in is a prominent feature.

Never blessed with notable pace, Alonso has not had to rely on physical abilities to be the best at what he does. While other top defensive midfielders in the current game are full of destructive power, aerial prowess and an insatiable work-rate, the Spaniard rests on his footballing abilities and intelligence.

These afore-mentioned abilities should keep him at the pinnacle of Spanish football for the length of his new contract, while his place in Vicente del Bosque’s squad for this summer’s World Cup is all but assured.

With the game becoming more based around speed and physical acumen, watching someone like Alonso is a breath of fresh air; it is like turning back the years and watch a passmaster of old.

The Spaniard is rarely rushed, hardly ever flustered and sparingly dispossessed. This cool and calm persona, unlike many technical and physical abilities, cannot be taught or forged; it is simply something that (very) few players  are lucky enough to just have.

Barcelona’s tiki-taka style of play has been accredited as a key reason for Spain’s success on the national stage, with the likes of Xavi and Andrés Iniesta winning acclaim. However, the heartbeat of the Spain World Cup winning team and for the period of Iberian dominance over the world game comes from the other side of the El Clásico divide.

Alonso’s considerable influence at Liverpool saw the Anfield outfit fight for the Premier League title, win the Champions League and be deemed as one of England’s top sides. Countryman Fernando Torres gained many of the plaudits for his dazzling speed and finishing ability, but it was only after Alonso left Merseyside that the significance of El Niño’s supply was recognised. Liverpool are only this season top-four hopefuls again following Alonso’s departure in 2009.

For Real Madrid, despite his age, Alonso continues to be a critical figure. The same applies for the Spanish national side. Forget the likely summer spending spree at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu; Los Blancos’ best signing ahead of next season has been steering the ship for some time now.

I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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