12th anniversary of Xabi Alonso exit - Steven Gerrard left devastated by Rafa's decision


Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard was left devastated after Rafa Benitez sale of Xabi Alonso in 2009

"It was a disastrous decision to sell Alonso. I blame Rafa entirely for the loss of Alonso," the words of Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard when when reflecting on Xabi Alonso’s 2009 transfer to Real Madrid in his autobiography back in 2015.

The basics of Alonso’s Anfield exit are well-known.
Rafa Benitez wanted to sign Gareth Barry from Aston Villa in the summer of 2008 in a bid to boost the club's homegrown quota, but with infamous owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett unwilling or simply unable to finance a move, made it clear he would have to raise funds himself by selling a player if he wanted to recruit the England international.

"Xabi is very clever. He is good with long and short passes. He has more skill than strength. He is intelligent and will play well," Benitez said when signing his compatriot in 2004.

"He will give us more possibilities in the midfield."

Yet four years later, he believed the Spaniard was no longer the answer.

"We decided that the most likely candidate was Xabi Alonso," Benitez explained in his own book in 2012.

"(He had been a great player for us since we signed him from Real Sociedad, but he had not quite performed to his best in the last couple of years.

"He remained coveted on the continent and we knew we had to make a sacrifice if we were to build the squad we needed.

"Juventus - no doubt still remembering his excellent performance against them in 2005 - had shown a strong interest, but they would not meet our valuation. They did not want to pay what Alonso was worth, hoping that we would be forced to lower our estimate as the summer wore on.

"That was not the case: we need a certain amount, to cover the fee for Barry and give us some funds in reserve for other players. We could not afford to sell cheap.

"We (also) could not agree a fee that we felt was suitable (with Aston Villa for Barry) and it became increasingly clear there was little or no chance that a deal would be completed.

"At almost the same time as we made it plain to Juventus that they would have to meet our valuation if they wanted to sign Alonso, we pulled out of talks with Villa."

Benitez played a big transfer gamble, caught up in the Anfield Civil War between Hicks and Gillett, and ultimately lost with Gerrard very much pointing the blame for Alonso's exit at the current Everton boss.

They say time is a great healer but that has never been the case when it comes to the Spaniard, as Gerrard’s words prove.

"It was clear Alonso was royalty after our first training session together, and Rafa Benitez, who had been so clever to buy him in the first place, was equally stupid to sell him to Real Madrid five years later," Gerrard insisted.

"£30m looks a snip now when you reflect on all he has achieved subsequently, both at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich and with Spain, winning the Euros and World Cup.

"Rafa phoned to ask if I would help him sign Gareth Barry. He actually wanted Gareth to replace Xabi. Gareth was a very good player but Xabi was world class.

"It was crazy; but Rafa got it into his head that Alonso was not for him. He wanted Alonso out, and Barry in as his replacement. Alonso went back to Spain and it saddened me.

"Xabi Alonso could still be playing for Liverpool, six or seven years later, so why should he have left at the age of 27 when he still had almost three years left on his contract?

"Mascherano wanted to go, and he refused to play on until he got his move. Torres came to me to ask for help to leave, and he downed tools until he went to Chelsea. Xabi Alonso never once said to me he wanted a move."

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