Xabi Alonso and Asier Illarramendi have a lot in common.
Both players hail from the smallest province of Spain, Gipuzkoa, starting their career at the main team of the region, Real Sociedad.
They both operate in the central midfield region, linking play between the defence and the creative playmakers in front of them.
The only difference one can find between these exceptional footballers is the age gap. While Xabi is an experienced campaigner at the wrong end of 30, Illarra is a 23-year-old young guy, bursting with energy, ready to rule the roost for the next decade or so.
Both like to collect the ball from the defence and dictate play according to their side's necessities. Expert passers and manipulators of a football, they are their sides' engines, spraying precise passes all over the pitch and working tirelessly throughout the entire duration of a match, be it going forward or breaking up the oppositions' play with their superb reading of the game.
Now, with Real Madrid showing a keen interest in acquiring the services of the man dubbed as the next Xabi Alonso, Illarra has been presented with the opportunity to learn straight from his fellow Basque, who he has been tipped to replace in the long run.
But the question is, is he worth the €30m his club Sociedad are demanding for his release?
Madrid had paid Liverpool £30m for Alonso in the summer of 2009. At that point, La Barba Roja, as Alonso was called then by several members of the press meaning the Red Beard, was a 27-year-old battle-hardened Champions League and FA Cup winner, having spent five years in the tough-tackling, fast-paced, physically demanding English Premier League.
At the international stage, Alonso had been a part of the Spanish Euro 2008 winners squad, playing a part in four of Spain's six matches. Prior to that, he had been a member of the Euro 2004 and World Cup 2006 Spanish national squads.
However, though young Illarramendi had played some part in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons for La Real, he has well and truly burst onto the scene only last season. His most notable international career success has come this summer, helping the Spanish U21 squad come out as champions of the UEFA Euro U21 Championships.
And with his position well stacked with players like Alonso, Luka Modric, Sami Khedira, his will be a signing Real don't really need right now. Add to that the recent acquisition of former Sao Paulo golden boy Casemiro, Los Merengues' pursuit of Illarramendi reminds us of Florentino Perez's Galaticos extravagancies.
If, however, Alonso leaves for Chelsea to re-join Jose Mourinho (Chelsea have reportedly shown an interest in the player), Illarra's signing would come in handy, especially with Real left with only two experienced holding midfielders in Modric and Khedira.
All said and done, he is still a tad too over-priced for a player with so little top-flight experience, but this summer we have already seen huge sums of cash being splashed for relatively less experienced young players, haven't we?
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