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Thursday Throwdown: Xabi or Xavi?

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Spanish deep-lying playmaker Xabi Alonso today announced that he will retire at the end of this season. The Cosh boys discuss their memories of him, and how he compared to his compatriot, Xavi Hernandez.


Xabi Alonso today announced that he will retire at the end of this season. First, what is your favourite memory of him?

Rishay: The purposeful sending off for Real Madrid against Ajax, when in order to get booked a second time he aborted his run up to take a simple free-kick about half a dozen times. It was comical.

Bernie: As a United fan this is going to be hard for me to say  but his penalty for Liverpool in the Champions League final against Milan (though he missed it and scored on the rebound) was his best moment. What a wonderful comeback that was, although everyone is now going about Barcelona’s against PSG (yuck!). It goes to show how classy a player he is that I don’t resent the fact he played for the Scousers.

Alex: I’d forgotten about that deliberate sending off. Mourinho’s dark arts know no bounds! For me, it’s scoring from well within his own half for Liverpool against Newcastle. Yes, he was helped by the keeper slipping, but it was the pureness of the strike. It was like a golf drive. So clean.

Is there a better looking footballer?

Bernie: Absolutely! What kind of question is this? Everyone knows that Cristiano Ronaldo is the best looking footballer to ever grace the earth. Xabi, I love you, but come on!

Rishay: No. Many a time I’ve definitely thought: “Wow, what a beard” or “That’s what a man should look like”.

Alex: Have to agree with Rishay here. Xabi is not only a model professional, he could be a professional model.

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Spain were fortunate to have both him and Xavi Hernandez at the same time. For you, who was the better footballer & why?

Alex: I always preferred Xabi Alonso. I don’t deny Xavi’s immense quality, but I just felt that Xabi had all the passing qualities as well as a better shot and a tougher tackle. His ability to transition to a centre-back role in a back three under Pep at Bayern was also something that set him apart. Nobody can blame Xavi Hernandez for sticking with Barcelona for virtually his whole career, but Xabi Alonso’s record of proving himself at the top level in three very different leagues also helps. The biggest point though, is that while both are brilliant players, Xabi is just less of a prick about it. Less dogmatic, less preachy. He’s just more likeable.

Bernie: You’re right that Xabi is more likeable, but I’ve got to go with Xavi Hernandez. The man was an absolute Rolls Royce of a player. Yes, that’s a cliche, but nobody encapsulates that better than Señor Hernandez. In my opinion he’s been the most important player in the greatest teams I’ve ever seen: Spain and Barcelona. The way he dictates the tempo is beyond anything I’ve ever seen and I’m a big lover of Paul Scholes, Andrea Pirlo and of course now Toni Kroos. They’ve won it all but Xavi gets it for being the most important piece of two teams that dominated and changed the game. Spain aside, Alonso’s teams had great single seasons – Liverpool’s Champions League win in 2005 and Real winning La Liga in 2011/12. His Bayern victories could easily have happened without him.

Rishay: Xavi was better. He was more energetic and was the direct architect of the short passing game known as tiki-taka that enabled Barcelona to have such dominance. Alonso had a beautiful long range passing game and was one of the best in the world at that, but he was also more defensive and rigid. Xavi was more flexible and complete.

Will Xabi make a good manager?

Rishay: He seems to have a lot of interests and I recall seeing him once in a Bloomberg interview talking about real estate investments. He may be quite intelligent in that sense and I see him as more of a businessman than a manager. Who knows, he could prove to be class at managing too!

Alex: I think he’d make a brilliant manager if he has the appetite for it. He’s intelligent, as Rishay says, both generally and with regard to the game. You can see that from the way he plays, the passes he makes. He’s seen different cultures, systems, learned from the best managers, and interviewers have suggested that he has a way with people, which is a key ingredient.

Bernie: If Zidane and Luis Enrique can do it, anyone can. Go forth Xabi, make us proud. Kind of.


Let us know your thoughts on Xabi Alonso in the comment section below or on Twitter.

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