Xabi Alonso

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Xabi Alonso
Alonso in 2018
Personal information
Full name Xabier Alonso Olano
Date of birth (1981-11-25) 25 November 1981 (age 42)
Place of birth Tolosa, Spain
Height 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)
Position(s) Midfielder
Team information
Current team
Bayer Leverkusen (head coach)
Youth career
1990–1999 Antiguoko
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1999–2000 Real Sociedad B 39 (2)
2000–2004 Real Sociedad 114 (9)
2000–2001Eibar (loan) 14 (0)
2004–2009 Liverpool 143 (15)
2009–2014 Real Madrid 158 (4)
2014–2017 Bayern Munich 79 (5)
Total 547 (35)
International career
2000 Spain U18 1 (0)
2002–2003 Spain U21 9 (0)
2003–2014 Spain 114 (16)
2001–2012 Basque Country 5 (0)
Managerial career
2019–2022 Real Sociedad B
2022– Bayer Leverkusen
Medal record
Men's football
Representing  Spain
FIFA World Cup
Winner 2010
UEFA European Championship
Winner 2008
Winner 2012
FIFA Confederations Cup
Third place 2009
*Club domestic league appearances and goals

Xabier Alonso Olano (Basque: [ˈʃaβi aˈlons̺o oˈlano], Spanish: [ˈʃaβj aˈlonso oˈlano]; born 25 November 1981) is a Spanish professional football manager and former player who is currently the head coach of Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen. Regarded as one of the best midfielders of his generation, he is also considered one of the best young managers in the world.

Alonso began his career at Real Sociedad, the main team of his home province Gipuzkoa. After a brief loan period at Eibar, he was appointed as team captain of Real Sociedad by then-manager John Toshack. He succeeded in the role, taking the club to second place in the 2002–03 season. He moved to Liverpool in August 2004 for £10.5 million and won the UEFA Champions League in his first season, under manager Rafael Benítez, scoring the equalising goal in the Final against Milan. The following season, he won the FA Cup and the FA Community Shield.

He moved to Real Madrid for the start of the 2009–10 season in a deal worth around £30 million. After winning honours including a league title in 2012 and the Champions League in 2014 during five seasons in Madrid, he was signed by German club Bayern Munich on a two-year contract. This was extended by a further year, and he eventually retired from playing in summer 2017, aged 35, having won the Bundesliga in each of his three seasons with Bayern.

He made his international debut for Spain in April 2003 in a 4–0 victory against Ecuador. While playing for Spain, Alonso won Euro 2008, Euro 2012 and the 2010 World Cup, and he also represented his country at Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup. On 23 June 2012, Alonso won his 100th cap for Spain in the quarter-final of Euro 2012 against France; he celebrated the occasion by scoring both of Spain's goals to send them into the semi-finals. Following Spain's failure to progress out of the group stages at the 2014 World Cup, Alonso retired from international football. His 114 caps make him the eighth-most capped player in the nation's history.

A year after retiring from professional football, he initially coached Real Madrid's U14 team before being appointed as manager of Real Sociedad's reserve team in June 2019, where he helped the team promote to the Segunda División in his second season before leaving the club in May 2022, being named head coach of Bayer Leverkusen five months later. He subsequently led Leverkusen to their first Bundesliga title in his first full season at the club in 2024.

Early years

Alonso was born in the small town of Tolosa, Gipuzkoa, Basque Country, into a family known for its footballing prowess. His father, Periko Alonso, won La Liga twice in successive seasons with Real Sociedad and a third time after he joined Barcelona. He also featured in the national team, winning 21 caps over the course of his career.

Alonso lived in the city of Barcelona for the first six years of his life and moved to San Sebastián (Donostia) thereafter. It was here that his passion for football began as he whiled away his childhood playing at Playa de la Concha (Shell Beach). On the Basque sands, Alonso befriended a fellow resident of Calle Matia, Mikel Arteta, and the two would battle each other in exhibitions of technical ability. He was immersed in football and his father would often bring him and his older brother, Mikel, to CE Sabadell's training ground to practice together. Alonso was influenced by his father's playing, taking more pleasure in passing the ball well than shooting at goal. At an early age, he decided to play as a defensive midfielder, a role which helped him learn how to distribute the ball well. This talent would later prove to be an integral part of his club and international career.

At age 15, Alonso went to the Irish town of Kells, County Meath, on a school exchange programme to learn English and while there he played Gaelic Football.

Alonso and Arteta were ambitious and dreamed of playing alongside each other for Real Sociedad when they were older. Though they attended different schools, the two young players joined forces at the local youth side Antiguoko, playing games at the weekend. Their performances attracted the attention of scouts from top Spanish sides and the young Donostiarras separated ways, ending nine years of friendly rivalry, as Alonso went to Real Sociedad and Arteta moved to Catalan giants Barcelona. Alonso's move to Real Sociedad, however, was not a companionless one, as his older brother Mikel, who had also become an adept player, joined the club together with him.

Club career

Real Sociedad

Alonso quickly progressed through the youth ranks and the reserve team at Real Sociedad (winning the regionalised fourth tier in his single season with the latter) and impressed enough to earn a first team debut at the age of 18. He made his first senior appearance against Logroñés in December 1999 in a Copa del Rey match. Alonso failed to make another appearance in the season but the following year brought more opportunities. At the beginning of the 2000–01 season, Javier Clemente sent him to Segunda División team Eibar to gain experience. Alonso's father particularly felt the move to the smaller club improved him as a player. A quick turnover of managers, however, including a two-month period with Periko Alonso in charge, left Real Sociedad in a dire situation. By January 2001, Real Sociedad were bottom of the league and its new manager, John Toshack, turned to the prodigious Alonso in the hope of reversing the team's fortunes. In a surprise move, the Welsh manager made the 20-year-old the team captain, a position traditionally held by more senior players. By the end of the season, Sociedad had climbed out of the relegation zone and finished in 14th place. Toshack lauded Alonso, noting that the impression he had on the team was exceptional, especially for a player from the youth team.

Under the tutelage of John Toshack, Alonso's captaincy marked a resurgence of form for Real Sociedad. Toshack recognised Alonso's potential and invested much time in his young captain, creating a training method designed to improve his touch and control specifically for him. The team cemented its mid-table position in the 2001–02, finishing in 13th place. Alonso appeared consistently in La Liga with 30 appearances over the course of the season and also scored his first league goal, finishing with a season total of three. Real Sociedad's management changed again in the summer of 2002 with the arrival of Raynald Denoueix, but Alonso kept his place in the first team on the strength of his past performances.

The 2002–03 season was the club's best league performance since the 1981–82 season, in which they won the league. The Basque team finished second, two points behind Real Madrid, setting a club record for their highest ever points total, and qualifying for the UEFA Champions League for the first time. Alonso received much praise for his role in the team's success and was given the Best Spanish Player award by Spanish sports magazine Don Balón. In addition, Alonso significantly contributed to the team's goal tally, scoring 12 goals in all competitions. His performances earned Alonso national repute and Iñaki Sáez, the coach of the Spain national team, called him up for the Spain national football team. Alonso made his international debut in April 2003 in a 4–0 friendly win over Ecuador. Sáez raved over Alonso, saying, "He has a fantastic range of accurate passing sees football with an extraordinary clarity."

The 2003–04 season comprised mixed results for Alonso and his San Sebastián club. Alonso revelled in the opportunity to perform in Europe, appearing in all the team's games, and Real Sociedad qualified for the knockout phase of the Champions League. The team struggled under the pressure of the extra matches, however, and were promptly knocked out of the tournament by Lyon and finished 15th in La Liga. The combination of Alonso's outstanding performances and the team's poor league finish made a move away from Anoeta Stadium inevitable. Despite interest from La Liga champions Real Madrid, Alonso remained committed to Real Sociedad. Madrid failed to meet the £13 million price tag that José Luis Astiazarán, the Real Sociedad president, had placed on Alonso and the deal reached a stalemate. Alonso had other concerns and focused on international duty with Spain at UEFA Euro 2004. Despite the fact that Alonso's appearance at the tournament was brief, he caught the attention of retired footballer Jan Mølby, who was impressed with his precise passing abilities.

The summer transfer window at Real Sociedad saw the arrival of Alonso's childhood friend Mikel Arteta. Arteta was ecstatic at the prospect of partnering Alonso in midfield, but his excitement was short-lived. Alonso was not picked for Real Sociedad's pre-season friendlies, signalling that an offer by Liverpool was being treated seriously. The Basque side announced on 20 August 2004 that they had made a deal worth £10.7 million with Liverpool and Alonso had agreed terms with the Merseyside team. Alonso did not lament the fact that a move to Real Madrid had not materialised. Instead, he concentrated on integrating with the new Spanish contingent at Liverpool under the guidance of former Valencia manager Rafael Benítez.


2004–05: Champions League victory

Alonso arrived at Liverpool along with Luis García from Barcelona, marking the beginning of a new era at Anfield. New Liverpool manager Rafael Benítez sought to revolutionise the club and completely overhauled the squad, impressing his own management style and tactics upon the team. The technical Spaniards were Benítez's first signings and he remarked that their emphasis of skill over strength offered the team something different. Alonso made his Premier League debut against Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium on 29 August 2004. Liverpool lost the fixture 1–0 but Alonso was already receiving praise for his passing skills from the press. A Premier League tie away against Fulham displayed more of Alonso's talents. Liverpool were losing 2–0 at half-time and Benítez brought on Alonso as a substitute after the break. He revived a deflated Liverpool and the game finished 2–4 to the Merseyside team. Furthermore, Alonso scored his first goal for the team from a free kick to bring Liverpool ahead of the opposition.

Alonso playing against The New Saints in the Champions League in July 2005

Alonso continued to provide important goals for the club, scoring his first goal at Anfield against Arsenal in a 2–1 victory. Alonso was elated at the achievement and felt he was settling in well in England. The Arsenal game marked the return of Steven Gerrard from injury but Alonso's midfield partnership with the team captain came to a halt when Alonso suffered his first setback at Liverpool. Alonso's ankle was broken following a tackle from Frank Lampard in Liverpool's 0–1 home defeat against Chelsea on New Year's Day 2005 and the Spaniard was ruled out of action for three months.

Alonso made his return to the first team in the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Juventus. Alonso was not at full fitness but, as Steven Gerrard was injured, he played for the full 90 minutes and Liverpool held the score at 0–0 in Italy, defeating the eventual Italian champions on aggregate. Kevin McCarra of The Guardian paid testament to Alonso's skill and dedication to the game, saying, "This marvellously accomplished footballer testified in the Stadio delle Alpi that technique can overcome a serious physical disadvantage." In the next round against Chelsea, Alonso received a yellow card in a tense and scrappy 0–0 draw at Stamford Bridge, making him suspended for the following fixture. Alonso was distraught that he would miss the game and vehemently contested the referee's decision to no avail. Gerrard returned from injury for the second leg, however, and the captain steered his team to a 1–0 win with the help of a Luis García goal, qualifying for the final against Milan.

Liverpool's fifth-place finish in the Premiership left much to be desired but debut season glory still awaited Alonso in the form of the Champions League final. The team fell three goals behind Milan but completed a dramatic second-half comeback. Liverpool, trailing 3–2, were awarded a penalty and it was decided that Alonso would take the spot kick. While Dida, Milan's acclaimed Brazilian goalkeeper, managed to save the penalty Alonso fired the rebound into the roof of the net, bringing the score to 3–3. Extra time passed without a goal from either team and Liverpool won 3–2 in the penalty shootout. Alonso was praised for his pivotal influence on the team's comeback and manager Benítez reinforced his importance to the team. Alonso was ecstatic with the win, commenting, "This is the best moment in my professional career." The epic night was also recalled to be the 'Miracle of Istanbul'.

2005–06: FA Cup winner

Alonso taking a corner kick for Liverpool in March 2006

Alonso was ever-present in the first team in the 2005–06 season, largely avoiding injuries that had marred his first season at the club. The summer transfer window brought Peter Crouch to Liverpool and the striker's height sparked accusations that the team would change to long ball tactics. Crouch denied this, highlighting that Alonso's passing ability, alongside Gerrard, would define Liverpool's style of play. Alonso faced more competition for his place in the form of new arrival Mohamed Sissoko. However, Steven Gerrard's injuries and Rafael Benítez's favouring of a 4–5–1 formation ensured Alonso's place in the team. Alonso appeared in all of Liverpool's games in the Champions League but the dominance shown in the previous season had gone as the team lost to Benfica in the knockout stage.

On 7 January 2006, in an FA Cup third-round tie against Luton Town, Alonso assisted Liverpool to a 5–3 comeback victory after being down 3–1 early in the second half. Alonso scored two impressive goals from distance: one from 45 yards, and the other 65 yards from goal; behind the half-way line. Consequently, Alonso's goals marked a stroke of luck for a Liverpool fan who won £25,000 from a £200 bet on Alonso scoring from within his own half. Alonso suffered an ankle injury in a 1–3 away victory over Portsmouth, putting his participation in the FA Cup final in doubt. However, he recovered sufficiently to start the game against West Ham United and Gerrard scored Liverpool's third goal from Alonso's free kick, pulling the team ahead of the opposition. Alonso, still affected by the injury, could not manage the entire 90 minutes and was substituted in the second half. Liverpool won on penalties without his help but Alonso still earned his first FA Cup winners' medal.


Alonso and Dirk Kuyt playing for Liverpool in April 2007

On 20 September 2006, Alonso scored what the BBC described as "an outrageous strike" from his own half in a 2–0 Premiership win against Newcastle United. Andy Hunter of The Independent described it as "one of the most audacious goals in Anfield's rich 115-year history". Alonso rebutted claims that his 70-yard goal was all down to luck and stated that he took long range shots as part of his training routine. Despite the similarity of the goals struck from inside his own half, Alonso was in no doubt which was his best. He said, "I think this was better. The Luton goal bounced a few times, this one went quite straight. The Luton one was left-footed – it was different – but I am quite happy to score the goal." It was his first goal for Liverpool since the goal against Luton, making distinct history as the only outfield player in modern professional football history to score two consecutive goals from inside his own half of the pitch.

On 8 June 2007, Alonso signed a five-year contract, stating, "I knew there was interest from other clubs but it was always my idea to stay here. I have been here for three seasons now and have such special feelings for the club and the supporters. I understand what Liverpool means to so many people. It is such a special club and I just didn't want to leave." The 2007–08 season started well for the Spaniard: Gerrard's absence led to Alonso playing in a more advanced position and he scored twice in a 6–0 rout against Premier League newcomers Derby County. The bright beginning was short-lived, however, as a minor injury sustained in a game against Portsmouth became aggravated in training. The metatarsal injury forced him out of training for six weeks but his return to the first team was rushed and his injury recurred in his first game back. Alonso's determination and passion proved to be his downfall, and he later reflected, "I had been feeling a bit tired around that time because it was only my first game back and the match was very fast. But as a player you don't want to come off, particularly when the team is winning and I stayed on."

Alonso returned from injury at December 2007, but over the following months he increasingly faced competition for a place in midfield from Javier Mascherano and Lucas. His role in Liverpool's five-man midfield role was assured, however, as Rafael Benítez regarded him as "a top class player", stating that Alonso had the ability to change games and break down the opposition's defence. Alonso made his 100th league appearance for Liverpool on 12 January 2008 against Middlesbrough.

The 2008 summer transfer window suggested a move away from Merseyside, as Liverpool pursued England international Gareth Barry to replace Alonso. By the start of the 2008–09 season, neither Alonso or Barry had moved club but the drawn-out transfer saga had left the Spaniard feeling unsettled at Liverpool and unsure of his position in the team. However, the club's fans did much to restore his spirits, supporting him on and off the pitch, and Alonso responded to this, saying:

" couldn't have done more to show me how they felt... If I went out for lunch or a coffee, there was always someone who would come over and say, 'We'd love you to stay'. I'm just glad that, in the end, nothing came of it because it wasn't something I ever asked for."

Despite the events of the summer, Alonso made a confident start to the season and both his peers and the press praised his strength of character, citing his influence as a factor in the team's strong opening to the season. Alonso's importance to the team was further underlined when he scored the only goal, through a deflection, in a 0–1 victory against Chelsea, making Liverpool the first away team to win at Stamford Bridge in over four years. Statistical analysis reflected Alonso's good form: on 11 December, figures from Opta Sports revealed that he was the first Premier League player to complete 1,000 successful passes in the season. His last goal for Liverpool came in their 1–3 away win at Hull City on 25 April, striking after his free kick deflected off the Hull wall.

Real Madrid

2009–10 season

Alonso playing for Real Madrid in February 2012

Alonso completed his £30 million move to Real Madrid on 5 August 2009. It has been suggested that he never wanted to leave the Anfield side, with his contract existing until at least 2012, and that his departure was due to differences with Benítez. Former teammate Steven Gerrard said he was "devastated" by Alonso's decision, and cited his departure as one of the reasons behind Liverpool's poor run of form at the start of the following season.

Alonso was given the number 22 jersey in Madrid and played in a holding midfield position. He scored his first goal for his new team on 21 February 2010, a penalty against Villarreal in a 6–2 win. Unless he was injured or suspended, Manuel Pellegrini started Alonso in every match of the Champions League and in La Liga in his first season at Real Madrid. In La Liga, he helped the club finish with a club-record 96 points, three points behind winners Barcelona. It was the third time in Alonso's career that he helped his team set a new club record in terms of points gathered, while finishing in second position (he achieved the same feat with Real Sociedad in 2002–03 and with Liverpool in 2008–09). During his first season at Real Madrid, Alonso scored three goals and was considered one of the club's "most consistent" players. Readers of Marca made him part of its La Liga team of the season, as their choice defensive midfielder; the only other Real Madrid player featured was Cristiano Ronaldo. Alonso received the same accolade from ESPN Soccernet. He was also a nominee in the LFP Awards, awards given out by the Liga de Fútbol Profesional, the Spanish Football league. Alonso was nominated in the Best Midfielder category, alongside Xavi and Javi Martínez. Several members of the Spanish press, as well as a number of Real Madrid supporters, gave Alonso a new nickname during the season: La Barba Roja ("The Red Beard").


Alonso with Real Madrid in 2014

Alonso's second season at Real Madrid started with the arrival of a new manager, José Mourinho. He was given the number 14 jersey after the departure of vice-captain Guti. He did not score any goals that whole season but helped Real Madrid win the Copa del Rey.

Alonso began his third season at Madrid by scoring the second goal in a 2–2 draw against Barcelona in the 2011 Supercopa de España at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. On 21 September 2011, he played his 100th official game for Real Madrid in the 0–0 draw against Racing de Santander. Alonso claimed the first league title of his career.

On 8 January 2014, Alonso signed a contract extension with Real Madrid, which would have kept him at the club until 2016. On 29 April 2014, Real Madrid defeated Bayern Munich 4–0 in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final to qualify for the final on a 5–0 aggregate win. Alonso received a yellow card after a sliding tackle on Bastian Schweinsteiger in the first half; as he already had two before the match, this ruled him out of the final. He claimed his second Champions League winners medal as Real defeated Atlético Madrid 4–1 in extra time.

Bayern Munich

Alonso playing for Bayern against CSKA Moscow in 2014

On 29 August 2014, Alonso moved to Bayern Munich on a two-year deal for an undisclosed fee. He made his debut the following day, starting in a 1–1 draw at Schalke 04. On 27 September 2014, in the match against 1. FC Köln, Alonso broke the record for most passes completed in a Bundesliga game, with 196. He scored his first goal for the club on 18 October 2014, a free kick in a 6–0 win over Werder Bremen.

In his 100th Champions League appearance, on 17 February 2015, Alonso was sent-off for a second bookable offence in a 0–0 draw against Shakhtar Donetsk. On 28 April, he was one of four Bayern players, all FIFA World Cup winners, to miss in a 2–0 penalty shootout defeat to Borussia Dortmund in the DFB-Pokal semi-final. He was also the only player to miss as the club lost the shootout at the end of the 2015 DFL-Supercup away to VfL Wolfsburg, his attempt being saved by goalkeeper Koen Casteels.

Alonso signed a new contract with Bayern on 18 December 2015, keeping him at the club until 2017. On 9 March 2017, Alonso confirmed via Twitter his retirement from the game at the end of the 2016–17 season. He and Bayern captain Philipp Lahm played their final professional game on 20 May, in a 4–1 victory at home to Freiburg in which he assisted the opening goal for Arjen Robben. He was substituted off in the 82nd minute for Franck Ribéry.

International career

Alonso playing against France at Euro 2012

Euro 2004

Alonso was first called up for the Spain national football team by manager Iñaki Sáez for a friendly against Ecuador on 30 April 2003, aged 21. He started in the 4–0 win at the Vicente Calderón Stadium.

Sáez named Alonso in the UEFA Euro 2004 squad in Portugal. He was a substitute in the win over Russia, and started the defeat to the hosts, in a group stage exit.

2006 World Cup

Alonso was named in the Spanish squad for the 2006 FIFA World Cup and he scored Spain's first goal of the tournament, his first international goal, against Ukraine on 14 June 2006. After Spain won all their games of the group phase, they were beaten by the eventual finalists France in the first knockout stage of the tournament.

Euro 2008

Liverpool's 2007–08 season finished trophyless but the opportunity to win honours awaited Alonso in the form of the Euro 2008 tournament. Alonso featured mainly as a substitute but, with key players resting, he captained Spain in the final group game against Greece, earning the man of the match award. Despite a strong performance, he could not attain a starting position in the team, highlighting Spain's strength in depth. Spain went on to win the tournament and he featured in four of their six matches. Speaking to Spanish journalist Guillem Balagué, he said that Spain's victory was deserved and the players' teamwork had been crucial to the team's undefeated run in the tournament. The Basque was ecstatic at the achievement, declaring, "Right now, we're all just living the moment. It's incredible and we're all walking around in a dream. It's fantastic." Alonso scored twice in a 3–0 win in a friendly against Denmark on 20 August.

2009 Confederations Cup

At the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa, Spain were eliminated in the semi-finals by the United States. In the third-place play-off against the hosts, the game went to extra time after finishing 2–2; Alonso scored a free kick in the 107th minute to win the game.

2010 World Cup

Alonso started every game for Spain during the 2010 tournament, playing alongside Sergio Busquets and Xavi in midfield and helping his side to lift their first World Cup trophy. In the 28th minute of the final against the Netherlands, he received a "Kung fu-style" kick to the chest from Dutch midfielder Nigel de Jong, the foul was controversial since it appeared to be a foul worthy of a straight red, but was only ruled out to be a yellow card given by referee Howard Webb. This left Alonso in pain and in fear of a broken rib. Despite this pain, he continued playing on for another hour.

Euro 2012

Alonso celebrates scoring against France at UEFA Euro 2012

On 23 June 2012, Alonso played his 100th match for Spain in the quarter-finals against France in which he scored both goals in a 2–0 victory. The first goal came after he headed a cross from the left flank delivered by Jordi Alba, while the second one came from a penalty kick given after Pedro was fouled by Anthony Réveillère in the dying seconds of the match. Alonso's penalty in the semi-final shoot-out against Portugal was saved by Rui Patrício in which Spain went on to win 4–2 after a 0–0 draw in the game itself. Spain went on to beat Gianluigi Buffon and Italy 4–0 in the finals; this was Alonso's third major title win with Spain.

2014 World Cup

Spain were again amongst the favourites for cup victory in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but were eliminated in the first round. Alonso scored a penalty in the 27th minute of their first match against the Netherlands, though he was substituted in the 62nd minute with Spain down 2–1 before losing 5–1. Spain then lost 2–0 to Chile, in which Alonso received a yellow card in the first half and was substituted at half-time with the score already at 2–0. Spain were then eliminated from the tournament but did win their final match 3–0 against Australia and finished third in the group; Alonso played 83 minutes in the match.

Alonso retired from international football on 27 August 2014.

Basque Country

Alonso playing for Basque Country in a friendly match against Tunisia

Alonso made his debut for the Basque Country national team in a friendly against Ghana on 29 December 2001 and received regular call ups since, while – due to his busy club schedule – not always being able to appear. Most recently, Alonso appeared for Basque on 29 December 2012 in a 6–1 victory over Bolivia.

Style of play

A consistent and hardworking midfielder, Alonso is regarded as one of the best midfielders of his generation, and was effective both creatively and defensively.

With good technique, excellent vision, and varied passing range, he excelled in the centre in a deep-lying playmaking role, where he utilized his accurate long passing ability to create goal scoring chances for teammates; he also utilized a powerful and accurate shot from distance, and he was an effective set-piece and penalty kick taker. Due to his height, positioning, and physical characteristics, Alonso was also effective in the air, often contributing with headed goals from set pieces when he advanced into more offensive positions.

In addition to his creative attributes, he was also capable of excelling as a defensive midfielder due to his strength and powerful physique, combined with his tenacity, tactical intelligence, aggressive tackling and his ability to read the game. He was at times criticised, however, for occasionally committing rash challenges and for his tendency to lose his composure and pick up unnecessary cards for particularly hard fouls.

Regarding Alonso's playing style, Jonathan Wilson noted in a 2013 article for The Guardian that he was an example of a more creative interpreter of the holding midfield role, who, "although capable of making tackles, focused on keeping the ball moving, occasionally raking long passes out to the flanks to change the angle of attack like an old-style regista." His role has also been likened to that of a metodista ("centre-half," in Italian football jargon), due to his ability to dictate play in midfield as well as assist his team defensively.

Since retiring, Steven Gerrard has claimed that he believes Alonso was the best midfielder he has ever played alongside. Moreover, in 2017, his former Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola, to whom he has occasionally been compared due to their similar role and playing style, described Alonso as one of the best midfielders he had ever seen in his life.

Coaching and managerial career

Early years

In 2018, whilst completing his UEFA Elite coaching course alongside former compatriots Raúl, Xavi, Víctor Valdés, and Joan Capdevila, Alonso returned to Real Madrid where he assumed a role coaching the Real Madrid U14s.

Real Sociedad B

Alonso as a coach of Real Sociedad B in 2021

Alonso was appointed manager of Segunda División B club Real Sociedad B on 1 June 2019, and began the role on 9 July. On his debut on 24 August, he drew 1–1 at home to Burgos CF.

In Alonso's second season at Sanse, the club won promotion to the Segunda División, following a play-off win against Algeciras on 22 May 2021. The win signified Real Sociedad B's first season back in the Segunda División since 1961–62. That March, despite being heavily linked to the soon-to-be vacant manager role at Borussia Mönchengladbach, Alonso signed a one-year extension with the club.

In his first game in the second tier on 14 August 2021, Alonso won 1–0 at home to Leganés through a Jon Karrikaburu goal. On 25 May 2022, Real Sociedad announced that Alonso would leave Sanse at the end of the season, with the side already relegated from the second level.

Bayer Leverkusen

2022–23: Rise from the relegation zone

On 5 October 2022, Alonso was appointed as the new head coach of Bayer Leverkusen until June 2024. He replaced Gerardo Seoane with the team second from bottom after eight Bundesliga games, having their worst start to a season since 1979. He debuted three days later with a 4–0 home win over Schalke 04. After a difficult first few months for Alonso, which included Leverkusen finishing third in their Champions League group, that result in them being knocked out to the Europa League knockout round play-offs, the team eventually turned around their form, with Alonso guiding Bayer's to their first European semifinal in 21 years, as he was eliminated by his former Real Madrid manager José Mourinho's Roma via a single first-leg goal. At the end of the season, Bayer Leverkusen finished in 6th place and qualified for next season's Europa League. In May 2023, Alonso confirmed that he would remain for a second season, amidst interest from Tottenham Hotspur.

2023–24: First Bundesliga title and unbeaten run

Alonso with Bayer Leverkusen in 2024

On 4 August, Alonso signed a new contract until 2026. During the summer transfer window, he signed players including Switzerland captain Granit Xhaka, Jonas Hofmann, Alejandro Grimaldo, and Victor Boniface. Alonso set his team up in a 3–4–3 formation with an emphasis on passing and counter-attack, while also only conceding five goals from open play in their first 11 Bundesliga fixtures. In the 2023–24 UEFA Europa League group stage, the team won all six games, with 19 goals scored. Leverkusen set a new record for unbeaten games, surpassing Bayern Munich's 32 in February 2024.

Alonso was linked to become the new manager of former clubs Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Real Madrid. However, on 29 March 2024, he reaffirmed his commitment to complete his contract. On 14 April, Alonso led Leverkusen to a 5–0 win over Werder Bremen to clinch their first Bundesliga title and first German championship in history, with five games remaining. On 9 May, he guided his team to achieve a new European record of 49 competitive matches without defeat in all competitions, following a 2–2 draw against Roma in the Europa League semi-final second leg, breaking Benfica's record of 48 games unbeaten between 1963 and 1965.

Personal life

Alonso was regarded as a quiet and friendly person by his teammates at Liverpool. He is married to Nagore Aranburu and the couple have three children—one son (born 2008) and two daughters (born 2010 and 2013). In March 2008, instead of travelling with the team, Alonso stayed in Merseyside to be at his wife's side while she gave birth, saying, "It was a little frustrating to miss the match against Inter but I have to be with my family at times like these." His decision to place his family ahead of a Champions League tie caused friction with manager Rafael Benítez.

Alonso and Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta were neighbours on the same street while growing up in San Sebastián, going on to live near each other in Liverpool while Arteta was an Everton player. Alonso convinced Arteta to transfer to Everton after he told him how happy he was living in Liverpool. Alonso also helped persuade former Real Sociedad teammate Juan Ugarte to make a move to Wales by joining Wrexham in 2004.

Alonso's brother Mikel played for Spanish club Real Unión. He previously spent a season on loan at Bolton Wanderers in the 2007–08 season with an option for a permanent deal. However, the team opted not to extend the loan deal and he returned to Spain to train with Alonso's former club, Real Sociedad. Alonso also has another brother involved in football, Jon, who works as a referee.

Alonso is a Meath Gaelic football supporter. His interest in the Irish sport stems from the age of 15 when he stayed with a family in the Irish town of Kells, County Meath to learn English, and played the sport in his spare time.

Even while playing at Real Madrid, Alonso has declared himself a Liverpool supporter and returns to watch games at Anfield when his schedule allows. He was quoted in The Times Online in 2011 as saying, "I am still a Liverpool fan and will be forever, absolutely" and that he will raise his Liverpool-born son as a Red supporter.

Career statistics


Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
Club Season League National cup League cup Europe Other Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Real Sociedad 1999–2000 La Liga 0 0 1 0 1 0
2000–01 18 0 0 0 18 0
2001–02 29 3 0 0 29 3
2002–03 33 3 1 0 34 3
2003–04 34 3 0 0 8 1 42 4
Total 114 9 2 0 8 1 124 10
Eibar (loan) 2000–01 Segunda División 14 0 0 0 14 0
Liverpool 2004–05 Premier League 24 2 0 0 0 0 8 1 32 3
2005–06 35 3 5 2 0 0 11 0 2 0 53 5
2006–07 32 4 1 0 2 0 15 0 1 0 51 4
2007–08 19 2 3 0 1 0 4 0 27 2
2008–09 33 4 3 0 1 0 10 1 47 5
Total 143 15 12 2 4 0 48 2 3 0 210 19
Real Madrid 2009–10 La Liga 34 3 0 0 7 0 41 3
2010–11 34 0 7 1 11 0 52 1
2011–12 36 1 4 0 10 0 2 1 52 2
2012–13 28 0 7 0 10 0 2 0 47 0
2013–14 26 0 7 0 9 0 0 0 42 0
2014–15 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 2 0
Total 158 4 25 1 47 0 6 1 236 6
Bayern Munich 2014–15 Bundesliga 26 2 4 0 10 2 0 0 40 4
2015–16 26 0 4 1 8 1 1 0 39 2
2016–17 27 3 3 0 7 0 1 0 38 3
Total 79 5 11 1 25 3 2 0 117 9
Career total 508 33 50 4 4 0 128 6 11 1 701 44
  1. ^ Includes Copa del Rey, FA Cup, DFB-Pokal
  2. ^ Includes Football League Cup
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Appearances in UEFA Champions League
  4. ^ One appearance in UEFA Super Cup, one appearance in FIFA Club World Championship
  5. ^ Appearance in FA Community Shield
  6. ^ a b c Appearances in Supercopa de España
  7. ^ a b Appearance in DFL-Supercup


As of 18 June 2014
Appearances and goals by national team and year
National team Year Apps Goals
2003 5 0
2004 11 0
2005 6 0
2006 11 1
2007 6 0
2008 14 2
2009 12 4
2010 16 2
2011 11 3
2012 14 3
2013 3* 0
2014 5 1
Career total 114 16
  • The match away against Equatorial Guinea in November 2013 although included in Alonso's 114 caps is not considered a full international by FIFA (too many substitutions) but it is official for the RFEF
Scores and results list Spain's goal tally first, score column indicates score after each Alonso goal.
List of international goals scored by Xabi Alonso
No. Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 14 June 2006 Zentralstadion, Leipzig, Germany  Ukraine 1–0 4–0 2006 FIFA World Cup
2 20 August 2008 Parken Stadium, Copenhagen, Denmark  Denmark 1–0 3–0 Friendly
3 3–0
4 1 April 2009 Ali Sami Yen Stadium, Istanbul, Turkey  Turkey 1–1 2–1 2010 FIFA World Cup Qualification
5 28 June 2009 Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg, South Africa  South Africa 3–2 3–2 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup
6 14 November 2009 Vicente Calderón Stadium, Madrid, Spain  Argentina 1–0 2–1 Friendly
7 2–1
8 29 May 2010 Tivoli-Neu, Innsbruck, Austria  Saudi Arabia 2–1 3–2 Friendly
9 8 June 2010 Estadio Nueva Condomina, Murcia, Spain  Poland 3–0 6–0 Friendly
10 7 June 2011 Estadio José Antonio Anzoátegui, Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela  Venezuela 3–0 3–0 Friendly
11 10 August 2011 Stadio San Nicola, Bari, Italy  Italy 1–1 1–2 Friendly
12 7 October 2011 Generali Arena, Prague, Czech Republic  Czech Republic 2–0 2–0 UEFA Euro 2012 Qualification
13 30 May 2012 Stade de Suisse, Bern, Switzerland  South Korea 2–1 4–1 Friendly
14 23 June 2012 Donbass Arena, Donetsk, Ukraine  France 1–0 2–0 UEFA Euro 2012
15 2–0
16 13 June 2014 Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, Brazil  Netherlands 1–0 1–5 2014 FIFA World Cup

Managerial statistics

As of match played 12 May 2024
Managerial record by team and tenure
Team From To Record Ref
G W D L GF GA GD Win %
Real Sociedad B 1 June 2019 28 May 2022 98 40 23 35 140 120 +20 040.82
Bayer Leverkusen 5 October 2022 Present 87 58 19 10 204 84 +120 066.67
Total 185 98 42 45 344 204 +140 052.97




Real Madrid

Bayern Munich





Bayer Leverkusen

See also


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External links