So much for thinking that our Spanish players would have a rest following their Confederations Cup semi final exit. No, they were required to play in a third place off which even went to extra time. Can you believe it? A meaningless, drawn out game in a meaningless tournament? As it is our first friendly, against St Gallen, is scheduled for 15th July which gives the likes of Alonso, Torres et all less than three weeks off! The season itself starts on 8th August, a week earlier than normal because of the World Cup. Make the most of it gents!
One of the players resting will be Xabi Alonso however speculation, as whether he will start season in a red shirt, continues. Clearly they are separate deals but, as a fan, it’s hard not to divorce thoughts on Alonso’s current situation from the one Javier Mascherano faces and the effect one, of both, of these players departing would have on the team. In short Spain calls for both players, Real for Xabi and Barca for Javier.
If you’d asked me at the beginning of the season who, out of the two, would be likely to go I would have said Alonso. This is hardly a surprise given Rafa’s attempts to offload him to Juventus last summer and bring in Gareth Barry. The openness in the way these negotiations, with Aston Villa and Juve, were conducted has in many ways backfired on Rafa. Barry ended up to Manchester City and it also sent out a message to other clubs that, rightly or wrongly, Alonso might be, as it were, “fair game” for a move. Would the interest have been as intense had we kept last summer’s dealings under wraps?
Much has been written about Alonso’s relationship with Benitez which, if reports are true, seemed to deteriorate when the player decided to stay at home for the birth of his child when Liverpool were on Champion League duty in Milan. Cleary no one apart from Alonso and Rafa knows what level of understanding or agreement they have. Only recently the relationship was described by Alonso as “professional”. Many people will read things into this comment but Rafa strikes me as the type to keep ALL his relationships with his players at that level rather than crossing the line and getting too close.
One also has to admire Alonso for his mature handling of the situation. It would have been easy, after Rafa’s well publicised attempts to shunt him out last year, to have gone down a path that’s been well trodden by other players, thrown his toys out the pram, slagged Rafa, suggested he’s not wanted or appreciated and demanded a move. However, his response was to produce one his best seasons for us. Even now, as the transfer rumours have re-emerged, he remains pragmatic and professional.
“I don’t see why a marriage with Madrid is impossible, but I would also have no regrets at all staying at Liverpool.”
One wonders about the first bit of this statement as Alonso has a family steeped in Barcelona history. He’s a Basque and his father played for the club. Would a “marriage with Madrid” really be on the cards?
Perhaps if Barcelona came in Alonso would go however they appear intent on courting another of our midfielders, Javier Mascherano. The worries concerning The Argentinean’s departure appear to have eased slightly, despite Lionel Messi urging him to join him at the Nu Camp. Again at this time of year it’s always difficult to speculate on reports but suggestions are that Liverpool will offer Mascherano more money. There is also the fact that Barcelona have offered a new contract to Yaya Toure, a similar player to Mascherano. Two reasons that perhaps make it a possibility that he will stay at L4?
Quite how this squares with Mascherano’s wife being unable to settle on Merseyside I don’t know. If your family isn’t happy wouldn’t this take precedent over everything else? And what of the negotiations conducted by his agent? Perhaps they are now laying the ground work giving Barcelona “first dibs” on Mascherano at some future date?
Be it this summer or the next eventually the pull of Spain will surely be too much for these players to resist? To lose both would be disastrous and Rafa has maintained that both are not for sale. However, if one were to go, I suspect there is more of a case for selling Alonso as the gap left by his sale can be filled easier than the one left by Mascherano? There aren’t many holding midfielders in Mascherano’s class. I guess it’s almost a specialist position and, as a result, players are at a premium. If Alonso goes the departure can be accommodated easier with Rafa buying a direct replacement or perhaps buying a really top class striker with the money and dropping Gerrard back into Alonso’s old role? The other argument is that because of the alleged relationship issues, already mentioned in this piece, an Alonso sale might be the one preferred by Rafa?
Perhaps there is more concern over these possible departures because of our performance in the Premiership last season? In an ideal world the plan would be to keep the same side with one or two additions or tweaks and this is more or less what Rafa said he would do. Losing key players were not part of the plan? However, no side’s line up, formation or tactics are set in stone. One of the attributes of any top side is that they can react to and absorb changes in personnel, move on and even improve.
Although it will be disappointing if it happens, at least the sales of Alonso and/or Mascherano will give us the money to try and achieve that?