Let me begin by saying I 100% do not wish for Xabi Alonso to leave the club. Not only was he arguably our best and most consistent performer last season, he has been at the club 5 years and has a strong bond with the fans – something of a rare thing in this era.
Last summer I said how I would be happy to sign Gareth Barry, but only to add competition and options to the squad, not to directly replace Alonso. I wish Rafa had seen it that way too and maybe now things would be a little different. Perhaps though the key then was finances.
Maybe Rafa’s treatment of the player hasn’t been great admittedly and for that reason I can see why Xabi may wish to pursue his career back in Spain, having recently married and with the opportunity to play for one of the few other clubs in World football who are as big as Liverpool. So if our midfield maestro does leave, he’ll have my best wishes, and thanks for the memories.
So if indeed Xabi does leave, we must look forward and seek a way forward. There’s three obvious options; simply replacing him in the side with Lucas; dropping Gerrard back alongside Mascherano; or signing a direct replacement.
I sincerely hope it is the third option Rafa pursues if so.
Thankfully, I cannot see Rafa breaking up the Torres-Gerrard combo. He did that with the signing of Keane last summer and seems to have learnt from that mistake. Even this week he explained how Voronin has been told Gerrard and Torres are the main strikers at this club. Quite simply, I do not see Gerrard as a midfielder any more anyway.
As for Lucas, while I may not be a ‘fan’ I’m not exactly a ‘hater’ either but he certainly isn’t ready to step into Xabi’s shoes right now.
Which leaves the new signing option, not easy to find someone of the same calibre of Alonso – hence Real’s pursuit of the player. I personally would like to see a player with Premier League experience, but not pay massive amounts, instead leaving the big money to be spent on an attacking midfield to fill the left side of attack.
Two names which have been mentioned of late both have domestic experience and could fit the bill nicely. Mathieu Flamini, the former Arsenal midfielder, has hardly been used by AC Milan and could arrive for a reasonable fee, while Ashley Young, the Aston Villa winger, would add pace and directness down the left hand side.
With Villa having just signed Stewart Downing, are they preparing for Young’s departure? Of course, such a purchase would also help the Champions League quota.
I think most would agree, an attacking four of Torres, Young, Gerrard and Kuyt has pretty much every attribute any side could wish for: hard work, energy, power, pace, skill, goals and assists.
Of course, in an ideal world, Young will arrive and Alonso will remain, giving us one hell of a first choice eleven.
Rafa may have hinted his summer spending is over but I have a feeling there will be one more major signing to fill that attacking left midfield spot. Meanwhile, only time will tell where Alonso’s future lies; I for one cannot see him handing in a transfer request as he knows how important his relationship with the fans is, especially after last summer and the support we’ve shown him since. Hopefully Real won’t raise their bid…