Peter Crouch has waxed lyrical about the talents of Xabi Alonso – and has spoken for the first time about a time he was about to get a rollicking by Steven Gerrard, only to then score a wonder goal.
The classy Spanish midfielder is still revered by Reds supporters as one of their best signing of the 21st Century, the World Cup winner spending five seasons at Anfield having cost £10m from Real Sociedad in 2004.
Alonso will forever have a place in Liverpool supporters’ hearts too, with the midfielder scoring their equaliser in the 2005 Champions League final against AC Milan as Rafa Benitez’s team helped the club win a fifth European Cup on a memorable night in Istanbul.
The player eventually left Anfield for Real Madrid in 2009, though his reputation may have been soured a little had this claim from Cesc Fabregas over his wish to join Arsenal have come to fruition.
Now Crouch, who played with Alonso at Anfield for three years from 2005 until 2008, has hailed his former teammate as “class” – and recalled an amusing tail of when Gerrard was about to dish out a rollicking to his midfield partner.
“One word comes to my mind when I think about Xabi – class,” said Crouch, in a Q&A with fans published by the Daily Mail.
“Everything he did was done with a touch of panache, on and off the pitch. He came to Liverpool from Real Sociedad but he had no problem settling into the dressing room, he mixed with everyone.
“In training, he would rap these short balls into your feet and expect you to deal with it. You would then see him strike these beautiful 50-yard passes that would hit their target like a laser.
“To see him in shooting practice was also a sight to behold.
“We had this drill where the midfielders – whether it would be Xabi, Steven Gerrard or Didi Hamann – would arrive on the edge of the box after a ball was crossed in from out wide and the quality of their finishing was just immaculate.
“The sound of the connection illustrated the level of the strike.
“That’s not to say he didn’t drive us mad at times. He used to take on shots from the halfway line at Melwood, with varying success.
“The first time he repeated it in a game – at Luton in the FA Cup – Stevie was going to give him the biggest rollicking of all time… until he saw the ball sail into the net from 70 yards.”
Alonso enjoyed another five seasons at Real Madrid before moving to Bayern Munich, where he retired three seasons later in 2017.
Now 38, Alonso is manager of Real Sociedad B and appears destined for a big career in coaching in the years to come.