Xabi Alonso was a master of midfield during his time as a player. The Spaniard could control the tempo of the game with the utmost grace and serenity. He also had an uncanny knack of creating something out of absolutely nothing with his long-ball passes.
He was, by all means, the best long-ball passer of his era – and here are five times he showed just that.
5. Assist to Benzema against Valencia in 2011
Playing against Valencia at the Mestalla is always a tough task but Xabi’s quick wit and passing accuracy made it easy for Madrid to open the scoring. After being awarded a free-kick in their own half, Alonso took it quickly as he lobbed the ball forward to Benzema, who was already on the run.
The Frenchman made no mistake as he controlled the ball with is right foot and smashed it with his left past the goalkeeper to give his side the lead and also do justice to Alonso’s fine ball in the process.
4. Assist to Jese against Espanyol in 2014
With Alonso in midfield, it only took one touch to turn defence into attack and, potentially, a goal – and a perfect demonstration of that is Jese’s goal against Espanyol in 2014. Receiving the ball from his defence, Alonso, from near the tip of the centre-circle in Madrid’s half, launched a delicate long-ball towards Jese, who was in an inside-right position.
The Spaniard chested it down and cleverly placed it in the small gap between the goalkeeper and the near post. It was a wonderful goal made from an even better pass.
3. Assist to Benzema against Sociedad in 2011
In an assist similar to that against Espanyol, Alonso received a pass from Varane near the tip of the centre-circle in Madrid’s half, from where he launched a long-ball towards the centre.
Benzema, who was running towards Sociedad’s goal, received the ball with his chest, controlled it and then beautifully lobbed it over the goalkeeper. All of that – the ball reaching the goal from Varane – took less than 10 seconds, which shows what a player like Alonso brings to a team.
2. 80-yard long-ball to Ozil against Barca
This was perhaps the greatest pass from Alonso that didn’t reap any rewards. Ozil, who usually has a silky first touch, made a mess of a beautiful 80-yard long-ball from the Basque against Barcelona in 2012.
After receiving a pass from Iker Casillas deep inside his own half, Alonso set himself up and launched a magnificently floated long-ball towards Mesut Ozil around 80 yards away. The German was put in straight through on goal but made a mess of the first-touch, which allowed Barcelona defenders to clear the ball away.
It was one of those instances where the Spaniard showed why he was the best long-ball passer of his era.
1. Assist to Luis Garcia against Sunderland in 2005
Xabi Alonso may have peaked at Real Madrid but he had some tremendous moments at Liverpool as well. The Spaniard is still a fan favourite among the fans at Anfield and there is a good reason for that.
While most remember his two epic 70-yard goals for the Reds against Luton and Newcastle United, respectively, his first assist in the match against Sunderland for Luis Garcia was a thing of beauty. Attacking a looping ball in his own half with his back was towards the opposition’s goal, Alonso somehow managed to twist his body and kicked the ball with his left foot mid-turn.
Unfathomably, the pass cut through Sunderland’s defence and found Luis Garcia, who made no mistake and put the ball into the net. On repetitive watching, it becomes clear that Alonso fully meant the pass because he knew exactly where the players without even having to look.
The awareness, the turn, the quick execution, the weight of the kick and the pinpoint accuracy of the pass makes it an unreal assist.