Xabi Alonso has been talking about how and why he left Liverpool for Real Madrid in 2009.
In a new book called ‘Ring of Fire: Liverpool into the 21st century: The Players’ Stories‘, the former Liverpool midfielder explains how his relationship broke down with Rafa Benitez after he tried to move him out and replace him with Gareth Barry.
Alonso said: “Rafa came to me and was very clear. He said, ‘Xabi, we need the money to sign other players that I want’. In order to make that money, my name was the first on the list to be sold. I said, ‘OK, Rafa, no problem. I am a professional. I understand that’. There was interest from Juventus. There was interest from Arsenal. But the clubs could not agree terms.
“I was ready to leave, because the manager wanted me to leave. It did not happen, though. So the next year, the situation was different. I went to Rafa: ‘OK, a year ago you wanted me to leave and I accepted it. Now I want to leave …’ In the end, there was an agreement but it was not easy because he wanted me to stay by that point.
“I was surprised [that he wanted to sell me]. I was disappointed too, because I was very happy in Liverpool. I could walk down the street and people would beep their car horns and wave. None of this would matter to Rafa, of course, but why should it? He was the manager. He has his way of doing things.
“I can admit that my relationship with Rafa wasn’t as good as it had been in the first year. But I didn’t ask to leave because of that. I had been five years at Liverpool. I had the feeling it was the right thing to do.
“Moving from Liverpool to Madrid was the most difficult step to make in terms of the decision. But I felt that I had new things to learn, new challenges to take. The only thing I regret is not winning the Premier League with Liverpool. I’ll never know how that feels and experience the reaction of the city, as I did after Istanbul. It hurts because I know the people want the league title more than anything.”