i have to start off this post by saying sorry to my buddy, milky. you see milky is the most die hard liverpool supporter i know. while there is no doubt that milky likes the ladies, i woudn’t take the bet that he would not have unholy relations with gerrard, torres or carragher if the chance came up… just for the experience. but aside from that, how do i know he’s a full-blown liverpool fan? because ever year, milky thinks “this is the year. we have all the right pieces. this is the year we will win the premiership!” and then as the season crumbles, he’ll blame it all on extraneous factors and then begin boasting about next year’s odds being better. just like the rest of the red’s faithful, milky does it every year.
so when i first read that real madrid finally pried xabi alonso away from liverpool for a reported £30 million, i knew that nick was seething.
he probably was thinking, “how could this happen!? how could rafa sell one of our best players, especially after his last season!?!?!” but just like the rest of the liverpool fans, nick knows the truth too. there are plenty of reasons why rafa benitez sold one of the key pieces to his squad:
- return on investment: benitez bought alonso as one of his first signings back in 2004 for £10 million, and sold the 27 year-old today for £30 million. that £20 million dollar profit is nothing to cough at, especially to american owners gillette and hicks. thank god for madrid and city inflating the market, right rafa? otherwise, there is no possible way liverpool are getting that much for a centermid.
- gotta sell to buy: first, benitez will be able to recruit a quality replacement with the amount real is paying them. filling alonso’s shoes will be very difficult to do, as the spanish international brings so much to the table. but that money can bring in a much better option, as opposed to only having lucas to back up mascherano in the deep centermid position. and benitez can use the money to buy more than just one player.
- xabi wanted to go: all summer, it was commonly assumed that alonso wanted to leave. and when he submitted his transfer request not long back, we all knew he actually did want to go. but why does he want to leave? last year, benitez was shopping alonso in an effort to raise funds for his failed move for gareth barry. xabi felt unwanted by the club, despite having performed better than barry ever had and being adored by the kop. that might have sowed the seeds of xabi’s discontent. add the allure of making a move back to his homeland, to one of the world’s most storried club, where he’ll earn a decent wage… and, well why wouldn’t he want to leave?
all that said, i think the most important question nick and his fellow kop faithful should be asking is, “will this move help us win the premier league?”
and that answer is no.
as i said earlier, alonso drove the liverpool offense the last year. most of their movement forward began with alonso directing traffic out of the back. sometimes he would unlock defenses with a long switch into the opposite corner. other times xabi would get the ball out of a tight situation, switching the pace or direction of the ball movement. his vision is absolutely tremendous. and it doesn’t hurt that he usually provided a few smashing, important goals a year.
how can benitez possibly find an adequate replacement for alonso? rafa seems to think so, after signing roma’s alberto aquilani for 20 million the day after selling alonso. to be honest, i don’t know a thing about this guy, which might be saying something. oh yeah, and he won’t be able to play for the first two months of the season due to the italian having to recover from ankle surgery earlier this summer. so, they are still stuck with just lucas and mascherano for at least a fourth of the season. not really a great replacement plan, is it?
the timing couldn’t have been worse for liverpool to pull the trigger on this either. for the first season in the last few years, the title race appears to be wide open. manchester united lost two of their key attacking players from the last two seasons. chelsea have a new coach and an aging squad. arsenal sold one of their best strikers and have their usual questions about whether or not their youngsters can cut it.
so with liverpool’s biggest weakness last year being their lack of depth (what happens when gerrard or torres is hurt?), selling off the creative engine in your team with only one top class replacement in your side kinda seems… like a bad idea. unfortunately, that one play is mascherano and he lacks alsono’s distribution talents. selling off just one player changes everything for them. personally, i think rafa has effectively killed off his chances at ending liverpool’s 19 year title drought. and this is the reason why milky and all of the other fans should be so pissed at benitez.
not that i particularly care about liverpool’s fortunes this season, though i would prefer to see someone besides man u or chelsea win the premier league this season. frankly, i’m tired of having milky ride me about last year’s champions league results. so naturally, what i really care about is how madrid actually pried alonso away from liverpool.
this move is quite possibly the smartest move madrid made all summer. alonso is clearly not a buy for the sake of selling jerseys, but instead one that was made for footballing reasons. ever since zidane retired madrid have lacked a creative force in the midfield, and alonso is of that same vein. while he is no zidane, he’s also no slouch. with the wide array of attacking talent that madrid has recruited this summer, they were in desperate need of someone to feed all of them the ball. but oh how are they going to play all of these guys at once? i’m thinking we could see pellegrini change the formation to a 4-2-3-1:
assuming this team can gel quickly, that’s an extremely potent and balanced line up. before the alonso signing, i felt like real were going to have to have a forward-centric, 4-1-2-1-2 system with two strikers (benzema and higuaín) and one holding midfielder (‘lass). that type of formation places a lot of pressure on a back four that a) has a penchant for being porous, and b) needs to time adapt to playing with one another.
this new formation gives the backline someone who will exclusively sit in and help protect them (‘lass). it also frees up the space needed by ronaldo, benzema, kaká and robben to creatively attack by removing the second striker. add in alonso directing the attack and feeding those four players from the back, a la a xavi or iniesta at barça, and you have a highly dangerous and unpredictable attack. that unpredictability is something real have lacked for the last few years, and alonso is the type of player who helps bring that back to the bernabéu.
earlier this year, milky had his day to gloat when liverpool pounded madrid in the champions league, eliminating the spanish giants at the round of 16 for the fifth straight year. but now, it seems that the tides could be changing. liverpool pretty much killed their odds for the premier league title they so desire, while simultaneously helping my team to get better. real are on the rise (hopefully). ‘pool are (maybe) on the downfall. it’s amazing how the transfer of just one player can drastically change the fortunes of two teams.
i feel a little bad for milky, though. he didn’t deserve the this kind of revelation this early in the season. but then again, he’s in denial, just like the rest of the koppites. oh how alonso can change everything.