By Daniel Rhodes.
Signed by Rafa Benitez from Real Sociedad in the summer of 2004 for £10.7m, Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso, perhaps surprisingly, finished 8th in the TTT Poll. As the vote suggests, Alonso is adored by a significant proportion of Liverpool fans. The feeling, it seems, is mutual.
John Toshack appointed him Real Sociedad captain at the tender age of 19 when the club was struggling to avoid relegation. They eventually finished 14th and two seasons later he led the club to their best ever points total, finishing two points adrift of eventual champions Real Madrid.
None of this mattered to my pre-TTT, reactionary-fan-brain, when I uttered the words “who?” after he signed for the club. This ignorance was soon cured the moment you saw him play. The Spanish manager Inaki Saez, who gave him his international debut in 2003, said:
He has a fantastic range of accurate passing, sees football with an extraordinary clarity and plays with two touches. He stops, thinks and passes. He moves the game in the opposite way to where it’s going and will learn to steal balls because he has the body for it.
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