Xabi Alonso has had a busy week. First the 32-year-old officially announced his international retirement, after 114 caps for La Roja, before news broke that the midfielder was heading to Germany, to link up with Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich for £8 million. Here's why Real Madrid are making a mistake in letting Alonso leave the Bernabeu.
Xabi Alonso is a leader. The authority and calmness he brings to the football pitch extends to his team-mates, and as such Alonso was a respected member of two combustible squads in the national side and Real Madrid. The nature of Los Blancos transfer policy means the turnover of players is relatively high, so the value of a leader to gel the squad together, as Alonso does, is immense.
The Real Madrid squad without Alonso looks short on leadership. Cristiano Ronaldo, at 29-years-old leads by example, but can often be tempestuous. Sergio Ramos is notorious for ill-discipline, with his record red card tally not exactly a shining example to those around him.
Iker Casillas, Real's current club-captain has a long-running dispute with Álvaro Arbeloa, and will come under increasing pressure for his first-team place once Keylor Navas settles in. There doesn't seem to be players in the squad capable of being both vocal, and leading by example in the way Alonso did.
Let's not forget Alonso is only thirty-two. Aside from his personality, he can offer a tremendous amount technically. AC Milan thought they had got the best years out of Andrea Pirlo, only for the mercurial midfielder to find another gear at Juventus, helping The Old Lady to dominate Italian football as Milan struggled.
Alonso's role as a defensive shield in the Real Madrid side will be difficult for Toni Kroos, his successor, to duplicate. For Germany and Bayern Munich Kroos shielded teams that controlled possession, however at Madrid he will discover that his work-load will have increased, as Los Blancos often play explosive counter-attacking football, rather than attempting to break teams down methodically.
Much of Alonso's work went unnoticed, as he intercepted, tackled and tactically fouled to break up opposition attacks. Rather than controlling possession, the defensive side of the game will be the hardest task for Modric and Kroos to replicate in Alonso's absence.
Sell Khedira instead
There is no way Sami Khedira, a 27-year-old midfielder in his prime, coming off a World Cup win, will settle for a place on the bench. However, with the consistent form of Modric, and Kroos' arrival, this is what Carlo Ancelotti is attempting to do. Alonso, at thirty-two, would be more understanding of a removed role, covering for Real's first choice midfield pairing.
Selling Khedira would make both financial and sporting sense, removing a player from the squad that isn't happy at the Bernabeu whilst ensuring Madrid comply with the Financial Fair Play regulations.
Selling Xabi Alonso isn't a smart move by Real Madrid. The loss of leadership and authority, both on and off the pitch will hamper Real's galactico side, and could prove pivotal when the La Liga title race, and battle for the Champions League reach the latter stages.
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