Despite continued interest from multiple Premier League clubs, Real Madrid and Spain midfield linchpin Xabi Alonso has put pen to paper on a new two-year contract extension that will keep him at the Santiago Bernabéu until 2016. Chelsea and Manchester City were among the clubs linked with the occasional Spain captain, but a return to the Premier League will have to wait with Carlo Ancelotti eager to hold on to his best players as well as recruiting more.
Alonso’s previous deal was set to expire later this year, leading to many suggesting one of Spain’s pass masters could finally make his return to Liverpool. However, having already lost Mesut Özil to Arsenal, Madrid were loathe to lose another of their top assist-makers. The Spaniard is closing in on 150 appearances for the capital’s biggest club, but he has somewhat surprisingly only registered four goals for Los Merengues. His goalscoring record for his country is actually better than for any club he has played for, including two crucial strikes to take La Roja into the semifinals of Euro 2012, their third straight major international title.
A fan favorite due to his work-rate and exceptional desire to win, Alonso has stated on his personal Twitter account, “This will continue to be my home for two more years. I am very happy to tell you. Come on Madrid!” with the club confirming the deal on their official website. Madrid fans themselves have taken to the social network and appear to be welcoming the decision with open arms – some have hailed it as ‘better than a new signing’ having made clear their chants of “Alonso stay” in recent matches.
However, Alonso has not been the only Madridista heavily linked with a move to English shores over this transfer window, with Fábio Coentrão, Ángel di María, and recent Castilla product Álvaro Morata all in the British papers for one reason or another over the past few weeks. Coentrão is rumored to be on his way to Old Trafford to replace an ageing Patrice Evra in David Moyes’ drastic overhaul of his hapless Manchester United, di María has again been linked with Spurs and Morata with their arch-rivals Arsenal. Carlo Ancelotti has categorically stated that “No-one is leaving and no-one is coming in”, but it is an unwritten rule of football that every player is available at the right price; whether anyone is willing to pay di María’s touted £25million release clause is another matter entirely.
Real Madrid currently sit in third place in the Spanish top division, five points behind the neck-and-neck Barcelona and Atlético at the top of the table. Cristiano Ronaldo has been in scintillating form all year and Gareth Bale has settled quickly with a goal and an assist for every league appearance, but the rest of the Madrid team has failed to perform to the same standard.
A mostly Messi-less Barça have led the chase pretty much since week one, and Diego Simeone’s Atleti have been something of a revelation. They dropped off towards the end of last season, but Diego Costa has more than filled the shoes of the departed Falcao and there is a togetherness in the squad that hasn’t been seen in years. Real Madrid need their multitude of stars to step up to the mark – Alonso is a born leader, and will be willing to put blood, sweat and tears to the Madrid cause.