Premier League • England

Liverpool told why they’re sleepwalking into crippling Xabi Alonso mistake as agreement nears

A close-up shot of Xabi Alonso with a prominent Liverpool badge alongside him

Former Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso is widely regarded as the leading candidate to succeed Jurgen Klopp

Former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has called for caution in the club’s pursuit of Xabi Alonso as Jurgen Klopp’s successor, claiming “the big picture” is being lost.

Klopp announced in January that he will step down from his role at the end of the season, having overseen Liverpool‘s most successful period of the Premier League era since his appointment in October 2015.

Alonso, who played for Liverpool for five years between 2004 and 2009, is widely regarded as the leading candidate to replace Klopp, with TEAMtalk exclusively revealing earlier this week that Alonso has been offered a three-year contract to return to Anfield.

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TEAMtalk understands Alonso’s preference is to join Liverpool after positive talks between the two parties and sees the job as too big an opportunity to down down, having excelled in his first major managerial role with Bayer Leverkusen this season.

Leverkusen currently hold an eight-point lead over Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga table, with Alonso increasingly likely to become the first manager since Klopp – with Borussia Dortmund in 2012 – to beat Bayern to the German league title.

Alonso played under Benitez throughout his time at Liverpool, memorably clinching the Champions League following a stunning comeback against AC Milan in Istanbul in 2005.

Benitez questions Liverpool’s Xabi Alonso pursuit

The midfielder went on to join Real Madrid before ending his career with a three-year spell at Bayern, also on the hunt for a new manager following the announcement that Thomas Tuchel will leave the club at the end of the season.

In an interview with select media, Benitez says he understands the logic behind Liverpool’s pursuit of Alonso – but fears a sense of perspective has been lost given his status as a former player.

Benitez, currently in charge of Celta Vigo, believes there would be a similar clamour for Alonso’s former midfield partner and long-serving Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard to replace Klopp if his stock was still high.

Gerrard is currently managing Saudi Arabian club Al-Ettifaq, having been touted as a future Liverpool boss prior to an unsuccessful stint in charge of Aston Villa.

Benitez said: “[Alonso is] a big name, good professional, good lad, clever, doing really well so I understand why.

“[But] imagine Steven Gerrard was around and doing well. Then it would be: ‘Gerrard!’

“With social media everything is going too fast so that people don’t see the big picture.”

Benitez feels Alonso was always destined to become a manager, having shown a propensity to learn quickly at Liverpool and overcome initial doubts over his suitability to English football following his arrival from Real Sociedad almost two decades ago.

He added: “He was clever and analysed.

“When you explain things to some players, you have to repeat. Xabi was one who learned quickly.

“Everybody had doubts. Could he play in England? Not strong enough in the upper body, not quick.

“There were question marks. We knew he had the talent but there are a lot of players who have talent, who cannot cope with the physicality and pace.”

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