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10th Mar 2017

Jamie Carragher admits he “couldn’t understand” Liverpool selling Xabi Alonso

Things could have been so different

Tom Victor

Jamie Carragher has spoken in more detail than ever before about Xabi Alonso’s Liverpool departure and the impact it had on the team and its then-manager Rafa Benitez.

Alonso left for Real Madrid in the summer of 2009, with Alberto Aquilani failing to serve as an adequate replacement, and Carragher remains mystified that a player in the form of his career was allowed to leave so easily.

Liverpool got £30m for the Spaniard, who had played major roles in their 2005 Champions League victory and 2008/09 title challenge, but his departure led to a run of four straight seasons outside the Premier League’s top four.

And Carragher, writing in his Daily Mail column, still has regrets about how it all went down.

Alonso and Carragher were teammates for several years (photo credit: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

‘I had no issue with Xabi wanting to join Real — for Spanish players that is the pinnacle — but I couldn’t understand why Benitez didn’t hold out an olive branch to sort things out,’ he explains.

‘Benitez had his best team in five years at Anfield. We were close to having a team that could win the Premier League and perhaps reach another Champions League final. Why did he have to continue the fight with Xabi? He had won the initial battle by getting the upturn in his form.’

‘What’s more, Xabi was under contract, so Liverpool didn’t have to sell. They proved that the same summer when not letting Javier Mascherano join Barcelona. But the writing was on the wall for Xabi and things were never really the same after he left.’

Liverpool finished seventh that season, and Benitez moved on at the end of the campaign. Neither Roy Hodgson nor Kenny Dalglish could lead the Reds into a Champions League spot, and indeed only once in the last seven seasons have they finished higher than 6th.

During that same period, Alonso – who will retire at the end of the current season – has won La Liga, the Bundesliga, the Champions League and the World Cup, and has been named in the FIFPro World XI twice.

Oh what could have been.

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