Xabi Alonso has explained for the first time why he opted to sign for Real Madrid ahead of Barcelona when leaving Liverpool back in 2009.
The 35-year-old legendary Spain midfielder, who will hang up his boots at the end of the season, had the chance to sign for either of the La Liga giants once it became apparent then-boss Rafa Benitez was prepared to let him leave Anfield.
However, speaking to El Pais, Alonso said the emergence of Sergio Busquets ultimately ended his chances of moving to the Camp Nou.
“It happened shortly before I went to Real Madrid. Liverpool notified me that they wanted to sell me. Benitez too, and Pep [Guardiola] was interested in my situation,” he said.
“He wanted to sign me because, as he told Rafa [Benitez], I was a type of player that fit into his model.
“But he had doubts because [Sergio] Busquets, who had tremendous makings, had just emerged. Guardiola chose him and was not mistaken.”
Alonso’s decision to call time on his career comes after more than a decade of trophy-laden success at the top level.
Having started his career at local club Real Sociedad, Alonso joined Liverpool in 2004 and was an influential part of the Reds side that won an unforgettable Champions League final against AC Milan in 2005.
Alonso scored the equaliser as Liverpool battled back from a 3-0 half-time deficit in Istanbul before going on to win on penalties.
While at Anfield, Alonso also picked up an FA Cup winners’ medal and the UEFA Super Cup before returning to Spain in 2009 with Real Madrid.
Five years with the mighty Merengues brought another Champions League crown for Alonso, as well as a league title and two Copa del Rey triumphs.
Alonso’s final club is Bayern, who he joined in 2014 and has already helped win back-to-back Bundesliga titles among other honours, with more success possibly to come.
Speaking last month about his decision to end his playing career, Alonso said: “It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I believe it’s the right time.
“I always thought it would be better to quit sooner rather than later. I still feel good, but I believe this is the right moment.”