Liverpool won the UEFA Champions League trophy in 2005, FA cup in 2006 and then the Community Shield. They reached the finals of the Champions League in 2007 and finished second in the Premier League in 2008-09. Since then it has been a downward fall for the club. They finished seventh in the 2009-10 season and sixth in the following season. This was intertwined with the sacking of two mangers. They are currently lying eighth in the table with four games to go. The fall began since the departure of one player in 2009. Most of you must have correctly guessed whom I am talking about. He currently plays for Real Madrid FC . I am talking of none other than Xabi Alonso.
Xabi Alonso was signed by Rafael Benitez in 2004 from Real Sociedad for 10.4 million pounds. He had a very successful first season with Liverpool, winning the Champions League and scoring in the final against Milan. He was a very important and integral part of Rafael Benitez’s management style and tactics. He soon established himself as one of the best midfielders in the League. He was not only known for his fantastic passing abilities but also for his tackling. He was also known for one more rare ability – scoring from his own half. He scored from 65 yards against Luton Town in the FA cup third round tie in 2006 and a 70 yarder against Newcastle in the League. BBC described it as an ‘outrageous’ strike. He was the perfect foil for Steven Gerrard. Alonso faced competition for his place from Javier Mascherano and Lucas Leiva. The 2008-09 season began with rumors that Benitez wanted to sell Alonso to fund the purchase of Gareth Barry. It unsettled Alonso but it did not affect his performance. He scored a deflected goal against Chelsea in Liverpool’s 1-0 victory over Chelsea making Liverpool the first away team to win at Stamford bridge in over four years. He became the first player to complete 1000 successful passes in the season. He scored what was to be his last goal for Liverpool against Hull on a rebound. He ultimately left for Real Madrid in a 30 million pound transfer due to differences with the then coach Benitez. He was very consistent for his new side and was a part of Marca’s La Liga team of the year in his first season. He also scored against Barcelona in crucial games.
Since his departure, Liverpool were never the same team that they used to be. His supposed replacement Alberto Aquilani never had the same quality and had recurring injury problems. Suddenly the defence lacked cover and looked shaky. Lucas Leiva improved , but he was never in the same mould as Alonso . Liverpool’s League position also slipped down. It is ironic that Liverpool have still not found a suitable replacement for him even after three years. The search is still on. I doubt if they will find someone as classy as Alonso. Liverpool have had several great midfielders like Ian Callaghan, Jan Molby, John Barnes , Steve Mcnamaman, Terry Mcdermott , Jamie Redknapp and Steven Gerrard. Apart from Gerrard , I have not seen the others play, but I know Alonso was as good as them if not better. On being asked if he would ever return to Liverpool , Alonso did not rule it out and said that his his son was born in Liverpool and he will definitely return there with his son some day. I only hope he does, because he is such a genious and an icon to several Liverpool supporters.