Who could replace Xabi Alonso?
It seems all but definite that Liverpool’s Spanish maestro Xabi Alonso will be leaving Anfield this summer.
Alonso has wowed fans for half a decade with his vast array of passing. He has been the architect of many of Liverpool’s great wins during the Benitez era. Indeed this season has seen Liverpool establish one of the most formidable central midfield trios in world football.
Javier Mascherano and Alonso are deployed as the two defensive midfielders with club captain, Steven Gerrard given licence to roam. Mascherano hounds the opposition into submission, while Alonso sprays the ball in all directions, orchestrating the tempo of the Liverpool team.
He is the fulcrum of the team. Should Rafa Benitez grant the Basque midfielder his wish, allowing him to join the flamboyant Real Madrid, Liverpool will be faced with an unenviable task.
Mascherano has been linked heavily with a move to the Nou Camp. Allowing both midfielders to leave would surely be out of the question – it would leave a gaping hole for Rafa to fill.
Preferably, if one was to leave, the departure of Mascherano would have less impact on the fortunes of the Liverpool team than the axis of the team, Alonso.
However Benitez may be left no choice in the matter. According to media reports, Alonso is definite in his desire to leave behind the club where he attained a Champions league and FA Cup medal.
So should the 27-year-old embark on a new challenge with Los Galacticos, who would make Benitez’s list of potential replacements?
Esteben Cambiasso has been touted as a possible successor to Alonso. The Argentine currently ply’s his trade with Scudetto winners, Inter Milan. The steely defensive midfielder has energy in abundance.
His style of play though would be more akin to that of his compatriot Mascherano. Certainly, he would fail to provide the same creative flair that Alonso has brought to the Merseyside club.
Udinese playmaker Gaetano D’Agostino, is another player who has been linked with a £17 million switch to the Premier League. D’Agostino who struggled at AS Roma, flourished in his time at Serie A minnows, Messina.
He helped the Italian club to a seventh place finish in 2004-05, proving instrumental to their success. He maintained a rich vein of form at Udinese, earning an international call-up thanks to his fine performances.
If Rafa preferred to look within the Premiership for a suitable candidate to take over the helm from Alonso, then he may look no further then West Ham United star Mark Noble.
Noble parades around the Hammers midfield, pulling the strings for the London side. Indeed at the tender age of 22, he could learn from the experienced Steven Gerrard and Javier Mascherano and be nurtured into England’s next blockbuster midfielder.
He has captained both West Ham and England under-21’s, showing fantastic leadership qualities for such a young player. He would also be a favourable option under the home-grown rule, set to be implemented in the near future.
A suitable Spanish replacement would be Athletic Bilbao’s 20-year-old prodigy, Javi Martinez. He has made a staggering 108 appearances for the club with Bilbao paying a staggering €6 million for him as a 17-year-old.
He is a traditional box to box midfielder. He could be likened to a young Steven Gerrard. Indeed Martinez has the raw talent, and with the correct guidance, could mature into an ideal replacement for Xavi, Iniesta and Alonso, all of whom are magicians with the ball.
Rafa Benitez could decide to cash in on Alonso and use the money to strengthen his squad elsewhere on the pitch. Lucas Leiva could be entrusted with the role. The Brazilian has shown a steady progression over the last two seasons but he would face a difficult task replacing Alonso.