With thanks to AnotherSpanishFan here's an interview from Spanish newspaper AS translated. Originally published on This is Anfield
The interview provides a fantastic insight into Alonso, his Spanish Liverpool team mates and asks him about the forthcoming games against Real Madrid and life at Liverpool and in England….
What’s happening in the club between Benitez and the owners?
Things are going back and forth, but for now it looks like Rafa will continue at the club.
The English press speculated he could go, and you, the Spanish players, would follow. Florentino was said to be interested in you. And Atletico…
And contracts mean nothing? I have three more years and the others, more or less. I remember when Rafa arrived and they said that the whole of the Valencia midfield would follow: Ayala, Albelda, Aimar…and not one of them came. Neither did Mourinho bring the Chelsea midifled to Inter. The club just keeps going through this debate; it’s normal that people talk and speculate. The team isn’t affected. These are subjects that Benitez and the owners will resolve for good.
Coinciding with the debate, the team stumbled. Everton equalized twice at Anfield, and you tied with Wigan. Coincidence?
Clearly we’re not the same team that we were a month ago, when we were fresher and playing with more fluidity. These are the normal ups and downs of every season, we’re no worse than we were. We choked against Everton, nothing more. The 1-1 draw in the FA Cup forces us into a replay at Goodison on Wednesday. If we worry about the teams that we played before, it can cost us in trying to pour it on and unlock the game.
How crazy the Cup is, huh?
Completely. Liverpool can come up against a team of amateurs and you can play them on a field that’s barely got a fence for separation, what would in Spain be a Second Regional (seventh division of Spanish football).
Five years already at Anfield. How does it feel?
One more. I’ve seen how the club is consolidating the purpose for which they recruited me. The idea is to build the team from the ground up for the long term. A lot of important history has already been written, but it’s been a long time since the last title. The blow was that we won the Champions League in the first year.
Against Milan in Istanbul and counter to predictions.
Well, yes. Benitez had arrived, but Liverpool hadn’t reached the level of other big teams. That title reinforced the confidence that the had put in him. From that moment we felt that we would continue progressing. The summary of these years is that Liverpool has returned to where it was: among the best and fighting for everything.
The continuity is good.
If you give it to the right person, of course. We’ve gone through some rough times, but the club has always reaffirmed itself. Continuous change means that something isn’t right.
What aspect of the game is non-negotiable for Benitez? What error should you hope to avoid in the knock-out rounds?
It’s very difficult to unsettle us. Rafa wants the team to stay firm and compact in transition. He maintains a basic theory: if you are solid in the back, you are going to win a lot of games.
You (Liverpool) just had a huge game; they’re much faster and more direct here in England.
Yes. A team manages itself according to the players, and we have speed in all the lines. Speed is key in this game, yes?
To play well means winning nine times out of ten.
Normally, yes. To play well brings you closer to success. Take Barca. Today they’re the favorites for everything.
As soon as you adapt, you’re at the end of the road.
Yes, and the truth is that it doesn’t cost me. I left Donostia (San Sebastian) intending to learn about the whole country to which I was transferring. I had the advantage that this club gives you everything you need and also that I could handle myself in English. Language is fundamental and it’s also important that you don’t just keep to people who speak Spanish.
But those Japanese dinners at Pepe Reina’s house don’t count.
No, ha ha, they’re a delight. I’ve adapted to a lot of English customs, but not to the food. I can’t do it. And I can’t do the schedules either, this business of dinner at six o’clock. I miss pinchos (a Basque food, bread and meat, held together with a stick, or pincho – Spanish ‘thorn) and fish! But I can deal with it. The family come and go and my pantry is always full.
With Reina it’s impossible to be bored, of course.
He’s hyperactive, too much! All of Spain knows it after the Euros. It’s tremendous the number of friends that visit him and bring him food. Pepe is in a class by himself.
And among the group of you, who is the serious one?
Fernando Torres. When he has to smile, he smiles, but he’s one of those people who listens and takes in everything around him. Riera is another special case: he suffered some problems adjusting. Ha ha, After a couple days he was talking with the whole world. And Arbeloa is friendly.
How is a typical day for you?
Very quiet. Training, lunch with the team, and back home. And now, ten months with my first son, Jon. In the afternoon, a walk with my girlfriend and son, a cup of coffee. Nothing like what we used to do in Donostia: start do one thing, and then another thing and another. When you’re outside, you relax less.
Jon is left-handed?
I believe he’s going to be right-handed. Like most.
And the grandfather, Periko, what does he say?
It’s his first grandson, so the dribble falls on him. My mother says that she does things with him that she did with us, her children.
There was a time that you were very close to doing to Madrid. Why didn’t the transfer go through?
They talked with Madrid, but there was no agreement between the clubs. Then Liverpool came and after a short time, we reached an agreement. I understood their seriousness and discovered they are a fantastic club. They have everything that a player could wish for and a lot of enchantment in their surroundings.
Their history, their fans, the same stadium. If you love football, Liverpool is pure football, a friendly club. Anyone will tell you about the past: anecdotes, victories, defeats. The way people talk about the club is very emotional. Kenny Dalglish is god here. When he appears in the stadium, the respect and admiration that he receives makes your hair stand on end. I’m sure that when I return to Spain after some years, I will always feel that intimate feeling of the “Reds.” I will be here at least three more years.
The Champions League is said and done. But now in Liverpool the craziness is all about thinking of winning the league after 19 years.
Since I’ve been here, this is one of the biggest moments. We have great players, and a good feeling. We have key points and defeated rivals in United and Chelsea, with whom we will play this afternoon in Anfield. We hope to play well and to win, because these are three very important points.
What advantage does the Premier League have over La Liga?
Organization, and how they sell the game to the world. The mess that the television companies make (of coverage) in Spain is unthinkable here: games live and without a problem! They care a lot about it, starting with the schedules. The Premier League can be seen in all of Asia without a problem but you won’t see a game here at ten at night. English football really functions well.
What player has surprised you?
When he arrived, Patrick Vieira imposed himself well with Arsenal. His presence and his ability to take responsibility for the center of the field really impressed me. And Paul Scholes always. You don’t see him giving interviews, he doesn’t appear on TV and this leaves him rather unnoticed by the larger public, but he does everything well.
And Xabi Alonso?
Ha ha! Each of us has our own way of playing; mine is to bring stability to the team, so the others have me next to them and so I can control the pace.
How will the game against Madrid be?
Very attractive. There will of course be a great atmosphere in the Bernabeu and in Anfield. And Madrid will be very good, without a doubt. There isn’t a favorite, but there are keys, such as us being able to score there. We eliminated Barca two years ago by hanging on 1-2 at the Camp Nou. And this match also has the additional attraction of being the first ever first-round knockout between the two teams. Our fans are very happy and I’m sure that the Madrid fans are as well.
What player from Madrid would you take?
I really like Sergio Ramos. He has great potential and qualities that very few players possess.
Casillas versus Reina. Are we at a meeting of keepers?
They’re the two keepers for the national team, that just about says it all. Iker is Iker and to have Pepe is a luxury. He’s so strong and reads the games so well that a lot of times he doesn’t take part. He’s gotten better at Liverpool (or “He’s made Liverpool better”, not sure which one is right), there’s no doubt about that. And, just like the rest of us, he’s thrilled to be able to play against Madrid. Look: the year after we won the Champions League, we got knocked out by Benfica in the last eight; no Inter, no Arsenal. Best to make a great game and to go all out.
To you, the Bernabeu doesn’t intimidate you, above all?
One time, with Real Sociedad, we won 1-4. See if they can get up after that! I hope that they are able to get close to promotion. For Real and for Guipuzcoa it’s massively important that the team returns to the Primera.
Written by ASF