Once You Fall For Xabi Alonso, It’s Hard To Move On

Xabi Alonso will always be fondly remembered at Anfield. The silky smooth Spaniard was a fan favourite amongst Kopites the world over. He could land a pass on a dime from 70 yards, and his ability to command the midfield in any situation and under any amounts of pressure made him possibly the most integral part of his Liverpool side at the time.

Who can forget Alonso stepping up to score the equaliser in Istanbul?

During Alonso’s time at the club, Liverpool played in two European finals, and one semi-final, beating Barcelona away and sweeping the might of Real Madrid aside with terrifying ease.

Alonso’s surety in midfield allowed the likes of Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard to express themselves further up, terrorising defences all over Europe. With Alonso anchoring the midfield, the Reds mounted their first real title challenge in years. The Spaniard’s passing was unrivalledd, and so often it was his pass that would set in motion some of the devastating attacks Rafael Benitez sides were renowned for.

The boy could ping a pass.

Alonso’s love affair with Anfield was well documented, and while Torres and Gerrard seemed to take all the plaudits for their exploits further up the field, Alonso was loved more on the Kop than most people would care to dream of. Even to this day, Alonso is terribly missed on Merseyside.

Alongside Javier Mascherano, he formed a nigh on impenetrable spine and Liverpool were beaten just twice in 2008/09. Unfortunately, a raft of draws eventually saw them finish second behind their great rivals Manchester United but hopes were at an all time high that that long awaited Premier League title was finally within reach.

However, a storm was brewing off the field at Anfield. The club was struggling financially and Rafa Benitez was being pressured into selling players by the Liverpool hierarchy.

The sharks began to circle the Liverpool squad and eventually, Real Madrid came knocking, seeking the services of Anfield’s anchor. Benitez was left with no choice, Alonso was sold and the Reds have not been the same since. The series of disastrous events that followed Alonso’s departure will go down as one of the most difficult periods in Liverpool’s history.

The series of disastrous events that followed Alonso’s departure will go down as one of the most difficult periods in the clubs history.

At the time, Reds fans were devastated, but with names like Gerrard, Torres and Mascherano still at the club the future looked bright. Italian Alberto Aquilani was brought in to replace Alonso and Liverpool began the 2009/10 season riding on a tide of optimism.

However, the optimism in the stands was not to be rewarded with results on the field. Mascherano lacked the creative imagination of Alonso, Aquilani struggled to adapt to the rigors of the Premier League and without their midfield general dictating terms and taking games by the scruff of the neck, Liverpool looked a shadow of the side that had absolutely blown Real Madrid away only a year previous.

Liverpool crashed out of the Champions League in the group stage and slumped to seventh in the league. As a result, Benitez was fired and the infamous Roy Hodgson was brought in to replace him.

Eyebrows were raised globally by the decision to bring Hodgson from Fulham and were only raised higher (in cases where that was possible) when Roy got down to business in the transfer market.

Hodgson brought in a gaggle of thoroughly uninspiring signings that were for the most part bang on average footballers.

The fact that Paul Konchesky ever got the chance to wear the famous red shirt is something that continues to haunt Liverpool fans to this day. Christian Paulsen was a dreadful mess, Joe Cole passed his prime and the less said about Milan Jovanovic the better.

Hodgson set the squad back years with his shocking lack of ambition and it well and truly showed on the field. Liverpool were absolutely abysmal, lacking in drive, backbone, and desire. Their best players were quickly becoming disenchanted with the clubs position and crisis levels at Anfield were rising.

Hodgson’s Reds were dumped out of the League Cup by League Two side Northampton Town to boot forcing Roy into a very public apology.

Losses to the likes of Everton, Stoke, Wolves, Blackburn and Blackpool were simply too much bare for some fans and calls for Hodgson’s head began to ring out resoundingly around Anfield.

The Kop, once shaking to songs of European glory, praising the likes of Xabi Alonso and leaving Real Madrid quaking in their boots, was forced to watch on in despair as lowly Blackpool claimed all three points at former fortress Anfield.

On the day of Hodgson’s sacking, Liverpool were languishing in 13th on the Premier League table, just four points above the relegation zone. Kenny Dalglish was tasked with arresting the alarming slide and did what he could.

Unfortunately, while Dalglish enjoyed god status at his beloved club, his methods were similarly old fashioned to Hodgson’s. He was able to coax the kind of response out of his players that Hodgson could not, but he failed to convince Fernando Torres to stay and his own signings, for the most part, were raw and unproven.

We all know what Luis Suarez would go on to become, but amongst names like Charlie Adam, Andy Carroll, and Stewart Downing he seems a bit of an anomaly.

Liverpool were better in 2011/12, but not by much. Dalglish could only guide his side to eighth in the table and the legendary Scotsman was let go by the club.

A protracted search for a new manager followed with Brendan Rodgers eventually signing on the dotted line at Melwood. It seemed an ambitious choice from the Liverpool hierarchy but at the same time a massive gamble.

Rodgers initial Liverpool signings again were not great. The Reds, by their own high, Rafael Benitez – Xabi Alonso set standards, were largely underwhelming on the field as well.

The double signing of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge in the winter provided some much-needed impetus for Liverpool to kick on but they still only managed a seventh place finish and still found themselves cut adrift from the top table of European club football.

What followed that first season under Rodgers was something entirely unexpected. Lead by Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and a resurgent Steven Gerrard, Liverpool stole an incredible march on the title, falling agonizingly short right at the last. Suarez was unplayable at times and was largely responsible for Liverpool’s searing performances that year.

Suarez was unplayable at times and was largely responsible for Liverpool’s searing performances that year.

Suddenly Liverpool were back in the Champions League! Rodgers had fulfilled his brief.

Sadly, though, Rodgers lost the talismanic Luis Suarez to Barcelona and quite simply failed to replace him. A whole heap of signings rattled through the doors but again they were raw and somewhat unambitious. The Reds looked woefully unprepared and out of place in the Champions League and were out in the group stage. Without Suarez, Liverpool limped to sixth in the league, criminally shipping nine goals in Steven Gerrard’s last two games for the club.

The Reds looked woefully unprepared and out of place in the Champions League and were out in the group stage. Without Suarez, Liverpool limped to sixth in the league, criminally shipping nine goals in Steven Gerrard’s last two games for the club.

Somehow, Rodgers was backed by the owners but after another inauspicious start and the sale of Raheem Sterling to Manchester City, he too was shown the door. Liverpool were a far cry from the side that Xabi Alonso used to love so dearly.

Enter one Mr Jurgen Klopp and a corner was turned. The appointment of the enigmatic German was a massive statement of intent and he was tasked with reviving Liverpool as a European powerhouse setting to work straight away. Klopp began turning players like Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino into world beaters while guiding a squad that wasn’t even vaguely his own to two cup finals during his first season at the club.

Klopp then signed Sadio Mane and what a revelation he has been. Emre Can has grown leaps and bounds under the tutelage of the German and Jordan Henderson finally seems to be showing the capabilities that Dalglish had seen in him all those years.

Liverpool finished fourth in Klopp’s first full season in charge, booking their spot in the Champions League once again. Phil Coutinho was told unequivocally that he will be going nowhere and the signings of Mohammed Salah and Alex Oxlade-CHamberlain will only serve to strengthen the squad.

Liverpool look far more prepared for the Champions League this time around. They have a manager with European pedigree, a dangerous looking squad and a very favourable draw. Could it be that the Reds have finally recovered from the sale of he might Alonso?

Tonight’s visit of Sevilla, the club that swept Liverpool aside in the Europa league final two seasons ago, might be a good barometer to measure that question by.