Xabi Alonso could become the next Pep Guardiola

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12 years ago, in the summer of 2002, Pep Guardiola chose to leave FC Barcelona and sign for Serie A side A.S Roma.

One of the major motivations behind Pep's move to the Italian capital was the opportunity to be schooled on defensive ideology and tactical strategy by then manager Fabio Capello. Rather than simply moving football clubs, Pep saw this as a continuation of his footballing education and an important step on his road into coaching. A road which had, up until that point, seen him learn the famous Barcelona philosophy from legendary figures such as Johan Cruyff and Louis Van Gaal.

Similar stimuli

Xabi Alonso's move to FC Bayern this summer was driven by similar stimuli.

At 33, Alonso is just one year older than Guardiola was when he made the move out of Spain, and the Basque too has ambitions of becoming a coach once his playing days come to an end.

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At his official unveiling as a Bayern player, Alonso told the assembled members of the press that he was in Munich to 'learn under Pep' - just as Guardiola himself had declared he was in Rome to learn from Capello.

This was more than just a football transfer; this was history repeating itself.

Learning the trade

The similarities between the two Spaniards are clear. Both represented one of Spain's 'big two' clubs, played in the deep lying playmaker position and, of course, both are the proud owners of wonderfully maintained facial hair.

Relations between the two men, however, have not always been smooth. During Jose Mourinho's time as Real Madrid manager, tensions between his side and their Catalan rivals reached new heights.

Alonso was one of the members of the Madrid squad who were constantly accused by members of the Barcelona playing staff and media of overstepping the mark in terms of his behaviour during 'El Clasico' matches. It was suggested that the approach taken by Alonso, and others such as Alvaro Arbeloa, during these clashes was a threat to the close team spirit of the Spanish national side.

Difficult relationship

This has not always appeared to be a match made in heaven.

Despite this, Alonso and Guardiola are driven by the same fundamental incentive - winning. Both are prepared to donate every ounce of energy they possess to the cause of victory and it is this mentality that should see past altercations quickly forgotten.

Surprise move

It does seem somewhat surprising that Madrid allowed their trusted midfield general to depart for such a modest price (The fee paid by the German club is reported to be around £8 million). But the prospect of the partnership between Pep and Xabi, both on and off the field, is as immensely exciting as it is ominous for the rest of European football.

If Alonso maintains the hunger to become a coach once he retires, his transfer to FC Bayern this summer could be one of the most influential pieces of business in modern football history. Just as Pep's move to Italy was twelve years ago.

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Xabi Alonso
Bayern Munich

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