Xabi Alonso prepares for final farewell

GERMAN PRESS AGENCY - DPA
BERLIN
Published

Overshadowed by the retirement of Philipp Lahm, Bayern Munich's Xabi Alonso will also close the curtains on a glorious career in Saturday's Bundesliga finale.

A multiple Champions League winner calling time on his career would normally be a headline story but Xabi Alonso will quietly slip into retirement.

The 35-year-old Bayern Munich midfielder will play his last match, a Bundesliga tussle with Freiburg, when the Allianz Arena pays homage to captain Philipp Lahm, who is also hanging up the boots.

But Alonso's departure from football, or from playing at least, will not go unnoticed across the world even if most attention in Munich is focused on one of their own.

"A highly intelligent man and one of the most uncomplicated players I've ever witnessed," was Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge's assessment of Alonso. "It's been a pure joy to have this gentleman with us in Munich."

Alonso started his career in his native Spain with Real Sociedad but hit the big time with a move to Liverpool. In his first season he won the Champions League in the sensational comeback victory over AC Milan in the 2005 final.

The following season saw him lift the FA Cup and his precise passing, powerful shooting and all-round reading of the game earned him a move to Real Madrid.

"The best passer of a ball I've ever played with and you deserve all the accolades that you're getting," Alonso's former Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard said in a tribute message.

In contrast to some signings at the Bernabeu, Alonso had little interest in "galactico" status.

"I've always been a team player," he told the Bayern homepage. "I see it as my job to create things for the players around me so that the game's easier for them and they can be more effective in their position. I'm one for strategy, not the spectacular."

Alonso was a key figure as Spain turned into one of the best sides in history, winning two European Championships either side of the 2010 World Cup.

And in 2014, after a second Champions League crown, he moved to Bayern.

"Since my first day at Bayern I've felt very good here. I'm proud of my time here," Alonso said. "After winning the Champions League with Real Madrid, I felt that my work there was done."

Alonso collected three Bundesliga titles with the German record champions but more continental success proved elusive. He was, however, cheered from the park when substituted Bayern's quarter-final exit to Real earlier this season.

"I'll remember that moment for the rest of my life," he said.

Like Lahm, Alonso has not yet confirmed his future plans for life after playing although he has said he will return to Spain from Munich.

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