There has been just a handful of players who have instantly made an impact at Liverpool in recent years. Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez are two obvious candidates, as the pair made all sorts of headlines during their spells at Anfield.
Not far behind them in the list is Xabi Alonso. From the moment that the Spaniard joined the Reds for £10.7 million from Real Sociedad in 2004, he soon became a fan favourite.
As a 22-year-old, he entered a completely new league that required him to adapt both quickly and efficiently. Not phased, not threatened, Alonso soon displayed all of his capabilities and was a major factor why Liverpool won the Champions League in his maiden season.
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When he left for Real Madrid in 2009, there was not a Kopite who blamed him. Alonso had the chance to return to his native country and play for one of the world’s best teams.
The way he was treated regarding when Rafa Benitez was chasing Gareth Barry also left a very bitter taste in his mouth, and rightly so. Alonso was still at the heights of his powers at 27 and proved at the Santiago Bernabeu that Barry was not fit to lace his boots.
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With Alonso set to not be offered a new a free agent this summer, it’s rumoured that he could make a return to Liverpool. If he is open to a deal to move back to the Merseyside outfit, it makes complete sense for both parties.
A new start
The smile on his face when he was first photographed with Luis Garcia after signing resembled that of a Cheshire cat. He was excited for his time ahead but likely did not expect to achieve what he did.
When he thinks back on his Anfield stint, that smirk is likely surpassed with a beaming grin. He fell in love with the club during his five-years where he won the FA Cup and Champions League, and also reached the final of the European competition two years after the infamous Istanbul triumph.
On his time at Liverpool, the 33-year-old reflected: “I spent five great years there and have great memories of those years.”
“We had wonderful nights at Anfield. 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.”
To show your true ability, a significant factor is being happy playing at a club where you are valued. If Alonso is feeling rejected at the Allianz Arena, he would get a completely opposite reception if he rejoins Liverpool.
Still has Class
Robbie Fowler got an almighty welcome when he returned to Anfield in 2006. With the greatest respect to Fowler, who is one of the best the Premier League has ever seen, his better days were behind him when he rejoined from Manchester City.
Just last season, Alonso was a prominent member of Bayern Munich’s team who romped to Bundesliga success and has already made 15 appearances this term.
Of course, he is not the player he once was, but there’s no doubt that he can still mix it with the world’s elite. His is as good on the ball as any central midfielder on the continent and still expertly spreads the play with such elegance and consistency.
He averages a 91% pass accuracy this season, 10% more than the average of the entire Liverpool team and has been best in possession in three matches for Bayern.
Liverpool have struggled creatively at times this campaign and have cried out for a protagonist from deep to start an attack out of nothing. Klopp reinvented Ilkay Gundogan at Borussia Dortmund from an attacking midfielder to a sitting player who dictated from further back in the pitch.
Alonso already knows the role like the back of his hand and would settle in immediately. Despite approaching his 34th birthday, the Tolosa-born midfielder has been just as impressive as the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller in Bayern’s rich vein of form this term.
His shooting ability from outside of the box is also something he is well regarded for. Alonso scored a number of incredible goals for Liverpool and Klopp has lacked somebody who is willing to have a go from long range and really test the goalkeeper.
Much Needed Experience
What is most noticeable about the current Liverpool squad is the rawness and lack of experience.
The Reds reached two semi-finals last season. The Chelsea defeat in the League Cup can be much forgiven; however, their FA Cup last-four loss to Aston Villa was a lacklustre display that left every travelling Kopite bitterly disappointed.
There was a distinct lack of courage from the performance of many individuals. The young protagonists seemed daunted by the occasion overall and were not composed on the ball, and often made the wrong decisions on the break. On paper, the Merseyside outfit should have been the winners of the match by a country mile, but being wasteful in possession and a shortage of experience ultimately was the Reds' downfall.
With two Champions League’s, one Bundesliga, one La Liga and umpteen other trophies to his name, Alonso has been there and done that. If Liverpool do progress into the latter stages of cup competitions, his experience would be vital.
He would also be able to mould the youngsters at Anfield.
Emre Can has all of the ability in the world and is a top-class prospect. However, his greenness must be matured if his potential is to blossom. The Germany international often produces moments of madness as he has made five defensive errors this season, of which two have led to goals.
Likewise, Jordan Henderson still has much to learn about the game and Jordan Rossiter would likely relish the chance to work with such an icon.
Gary McAllister signed for Liverpool in 2000 at the ripe old age of 35. Steven Gerrard, a young 20-year-old who wanted to establish himself in the first-team, was sceptical about the Scot joining Anfield and believed he was too old to play for the Reds.
How wrong Gerrard was and he admits that McAllister was a massive help in his career.
Within one season of the ex-Leeds United man joining Liverpool, they landed the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup treble. Gerrard was given plenty of mentorship from McAllister and admits he always tried to sit by the veteran on the team bus.
This could be what the likes of Can and Henderson need. A father-figure type player in Alonso, would be able to give them step-by-step coaching and tell them where they’re going wrong, and how to improve.