Ritika tried to warn you on Friday, but just as a reminder: everyone is going to miss Xabi Alonso. The former Red announced his retirement effective at the end of the season this week and ever since I’ve been in a grief-induced haze. Like, nothing feels real anymore. Nothing tastes good, sleep only makes me more tired, and trying to imagine the future only results in darkness and uncontrollable sobbing. (Maybe it’s just me, though.)
Tributes and kind words have been coming in from former Liverpool teammates (see Ritika’s post linked above) and now we have another former Red weighing in: Jamie Carragher. The Sky Sports pundit told reporters that Xabi didn’t just love his team— he loved his adopted city.
“Xabi embraced life in Liverpool. He lived in the Albert Dock, in the heart of the city and he, along with Pepe Reina, became a great link in the dressing room between the new lads who were arriving from Spain and the old guard of me, Stevie, Sami Hyypia, Didi Hamann and John Arne Riise.”
Carra went on to talk about how much of a presence Xabi was in the dressing room and how loyal the other players were to him. When former manager Rafa Benitez wanted to replace Xabi with Gareth Barry (seriously?) the dressing room rallied around their guy.
“He was a strong character, loved by the fans, so when Benitez wanted to sell him in 2008 there was uproar and there was an episode during a pre-season game with Lazio at Anfield when the Kop sang 'You can stick your Gareth Barry up your a***' about his potential replacement. Rafa's intention was to offload Xabi for £30million and buy Barry for half that price. The appeal of Barry was that he was English and could play in two or three positions. But, believe it or not, only Juventus and Arsenal were keen to take Xabi.”
Alonso ended up leaving Anfield for Real Madrid in 2009, spending five years there before moving to Bayern Munich, which will end up being his last club.
Now if you’ll excuse me I still have half a box of Kleenex to work through.