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Kroos and Rodriguez sign. What now for Xabi Alonso?


Having made over 150 appearances for Real Madrid since his move in 2009, Alonso has been a prominent figure in Madrid’s midfield. But with the state of continuum that lives in football, Alex Beck takes a look at what new signings Kroos and Rodriguez mean to the veteran midfielder. 

The double signing of midfielders Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez for a combined fee of over £100m signals brilliant news for Real Madrid but Xabi Alonso will be seeing increasingly stiff competition for places as he looks around Los Blancos’ dressing room in preseason.

Alonso Kroos Real

Alonso is currently facing a one-match ban from European football for invading the pitch during May’s Champions League final, which will see him miss the Super Cup against Sevilla in August.

The Spaniard, who joined the La Liga giants for £30m from Liverpool in 2009, has been a Madrid mainstay throughout his time there, making 153 appearances. But the arrivals of World Cup stars Kroos and Rodriguez – in stark contrast with the disappointing Alonso, who was substituted at half time of Spain’s second group game against Chile – puts the 32 year-old’s place at the heart of the midfield into question.

The delectable Luka Modric can look back on a sumptuous 2013-14 season, boasting a 90% pass accuracy and 6 league assists (according to WhoScored.com), and the Croatian tempo-setter’s place in the side is surely assured. It is fitting that he is praised in my debut article on this site, as Modric is the modern-day master of the outside-of-the-boot pass.

The Croatian, who moved to Real from Tottenham in August 2012 for £33m, was voted the worst signing of 2012 by supporters in Marca, yet the 28 year-old enjoyed a brilliant second half to his debut season – including a phenomenal strike against Manchester United in the Champions League – to establish himself as un-droppable in the Madrid side. He and Alonso have occupied the Madrid centre for two seasons now but Modric has outshined his partner recently.

Perhaps Alonso’s problem is that he has lost his definition as a footballer. At Liverpool his attacking threat was prevalent as he netted on 19 occasions and could justifiably be labelled a playmaker, yet he’s only scored 6 in his stint in the Spanish capital. Is he in the side at the moment for his defensive capabilities? Not on the evidence of this season. Alonso had a testing campaign and his statistics from it show that neither the offensive nor defensive aspect of his game came to the fore, being outperformed by partner Modric in both interceptions (46-40) and duels won (168-130) in regard to the latter. Alonso has stated that going to ground to win the ball is a last resort for him, and rightly so, but the fact that he is losing out to Modric in interceptions demonstrates that he’s not effectively winning the ball whilst on his feet either. It seems as if Alonso is a spare part in a Madrid side that could add a more distinguishable midfielder in his place.

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The arrival of German Toni Kroos from Bayern Munich, for an undisclosed fee believed to be in the region of £30m, is surely that distinguishable midfielder. The 24 year-old completed a mammoth 2,142 passes in the Bundesliga last season, at an accuracy of 92%, and is one of the hottest prospects in Europe on the back of impressive Champions League and World Cup displays. Kroos ran the show in the 7-1 rout of Brazil, including bagging a brace for himself. He should fit right in next to Modric in the Madrid midfield to form the most technically proficient of central duos.

And if manager Carlo Ancelotti is at all tempted to pick Kroos along with Modric and Alonso, the marquee signing of Colombian Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez must convince him otherwise. The 23 year-old number 10 will slot into his preferred role behind Karim Benzema, flanked by Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo – leaving just 2 spaces for the deeper-lying midfield position.

Age is also an issue. Kroos is 24 and Rodriguez 23, with Luka Modric still only 28, yet Alonso is 32. Age is not a deciding factor in team selection but it is certainly an aiding one – if Ancelotti believes that Alonso will only be near his peak for one more season then it could be argued that that season would be pointless, when there are younger and equally capable alternatives. Alonso has undoubtedly declined in the past year – without successfully adapting his game to counter it, say like ex-teammate Steven Gerrard has – and Ancelotti will be wary of this.

So if the 2010 World Cup winner Alonso wishes to guarantee a regular starting spot for 2014-15, he will be forced to seek another club. Napoli have expressed their interest in acquiring his services in a move that would see Alonso link up with his former boss Rafa Benitez. The potential transfer has been denied by the player’s agent, Inaki Ibanez, but unless playing second fiddle is acceptable to Alonso then he will be required to leave the Spanish capital.

There were noises earlier this season about a potential return for the ex-Sociedad star to Merseyside but nothing seems to have resulted. The Premier League runners-up do need a holding midfielder of Alonso’s ilk but this transfer is not expected to surface.

The star-studded Real Madrid squad is exciting to the neutrals and fans but it will worry certain members of the squad: Xabi Alonso is one previous regular whose place is now severely threatened by the arrival of Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez.


 

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