The Steven Gerrard charity tribute match this weekend has some beloved names and faces involved in it, but few are more loved by Liverpool fans than Xabi Alonso. Despite leaving somewhat contentiously, fans continue to support and admire the Spanish midfielder, and maybe the best part is that he loves them right back.
"For five years I haven't had the chance to go back there," Alonso said in an interview before leaving for Liverpool. "I spent five great years there and have great memories of those years. We had wonderful nights at Anfield. Of course it's going to be a special game for us and Stevie, and it's for a great cause. It has all the ingredients to be special for everyone."
Alonso always seemed close to the city and its people while he was a Liverpool player, and he confirmed that it will always hold an important place in his heart and in how he became the person he is today. "Of course, Liverpool is a special city for me," the bearded wonder said. "It's where I started to become a man. Until I got there, I was living with my parents, so it's where I had to start doing things on my own and settle down.
"From the first day, everyone was so kind to me and really friendly. My first son was born there, so it's always going to be special. We will always have that special link with the city and the club, because the club is so important in the city - it's like a religion. You feel it when you get there."
Xabi will be on the side lead by Steven Gerrard for the charity friendly, so he decided to take the chance to get in a friendly dig at the "opposing" manager, Jamie Carragher. "I'm glad I'm in Stevie's team because I'm pretty sure Carra will be a terrible manager," Alonso grinned. "So I'd rather be in Stevie's team and it's going to be a great game and we are going to have great fun. It's going to be good to see friends who we have been apart from for a few years, so it's going to be really nice going back to [Anfield]."
It's also going to be great to see Alonso in a Liverpool kit again, even if it's just for a day. He has been much missed, and you can bet that the crowd will be loud when he's introduced to the fans.