XABI Alonso has revealed how he reacted to being told he would be allowed to leave Liverpool if the right offer came in.
The Spaniard, who announced last week that he will hang up his boots at the end of the season, left Anfield for Real Madrid in the summer of 2009 but it was the summer before when he was first told he could leave the club, as Rafa Benitez looked to bring in Gareth Barry at the expense of the midfield maestro.
And Alonso has reflected on how he questioned his role at the club after a conversation with Rafa, though he understood and respected the big decisions the manager had to make.
In a 50-minute exclusive chat with The Anfield Wrap’s award-winning TAW Player, he said: “I respected it, he’s the manager and it’s a difficult job. He needs to make decisions and he decided that that’s what he wanted. He wanted to sign new players, he needed to sign English players.
“He explained to me ‘Xabi, I need to sign a few players, I need to sign these ones, I have this idea and we need money, and maybe if the right offer comes we will have to sell you. I said ‘OK’. This is football, I am a professional, I understand it.
“But at the same time, my mind changed. ‘Oh, my position in the team is not the one I thought it was’. In the end, the right offer didn’t come, I was close to going to Juventus, to Arsenal, but it didn’t happen.
“Of course if he told me ‘we want to sell you’, I’m a professional. I’m fine here but I need to look after my future, but nothing happened at the end.
“I said to Rafa: ‘OK, nothing happened, am I staying?’ I wanted to have the same chance as everyone else, and he understood that and said ‘if you deserve to play, you’re going to play’, and he respected his word. I played, the team played very well and I played very well.”
Alonso would go on to have arguably his best season in a Liverpool shirt as the Reds narrowly missed out on the Premier League title to Manchester United.
It was at the conclusion of the 2008-9 season when his exit would eventually come to fruition as Real Madrid came in with an offer of around £30 million, with many believing that the writing had been on the wall after the previous summer.
Alonso, however, insists that he felt it was the right time to experience a new challenge, having previously rejected Madrid’s advances after the Reds’ FA Cup win back in 2006.
He added: “Three years before — in 2005-6 after the FA Cup — they came as well and I said no I’m fine here in Liverpool, and signed a new deal.
“It was because it was the right moment. It’s not the same leaving after two years as it is leaving after five. I said ‘maybe I’ve done my run in the Premier League, I’ve enjoyed it so much, I love the club so much but I want to experience other things in my career’.”