Very few players like Xabi Alonso come along too often.
Of course, Spain has produced several like him in the past decade and a half: Xavi, Andres Iniesta, David Silva, Cesc Fabregas, Isco, and so on.
But when Alonso came to Liverpool, however, it was like seeing football from an entirely new perspective. The Premier League had seen plenty of terrific passers before then, but it felt like the Spaniard was opening up the pitch in a way we hadn’t seen before (unless you were a regular viewer of La Liga).
After winning the Champions League with the Reds, Alonso won another with Real Madrid before finishing his career with Bayern Munich. In each spell he dazzled onlookers with his metronomic passing, tantalising everyone – including the opposition – with his control of any given match.
Game recognises game is an American expression, but it can definitely be applied in this instance. Whichever country or league the central midfielder played in, he earned the respect of his fellow professionals, who could not help but be in awe of his skill and precision.
There’s many a talented Spanish midfielder, but there’s only one Xabi Alonso.