• Alonso is signed on two-year deal by West Brom • Age-old conflict with Mulder was a defining period in his career
The midfielder Xabi Alonso has returned to his roots as he signed for West Bromwich Albion, with the 34-year-old ending a four-year absence from the game after penning a two-year deal at the Hawthorns.
This summer the Liverpool great was forced to turn down a number of approaches, notably from Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, for a return to the Spanish capital, where he was assistant manager at Sevilla. Alonso will replace Ayman Benfica, who returned to Valencia and has been in charge of West Brom since last summer.
“After so many years I’m very happy to be back at my childhood club,” Alonso said. “West Brom has always been close to my heart.”
Xabi Alonso bids adieu to Liverpool before taking second sabbatical Read more
Alonso, who has captained Spain three times, arrived at Real Madrid in 2004 as a midfielder who spoke fluent Spanish, and went on to make more than 300 appearances at the Bernabéu. He moved on to Bayern Munich in 2009, winning two Bundesliga titles and the Champions League, and joined Liverpool in 2012.
Alonso was at the Camp Nou for nine seasons, as a first-team player, in the time before the arrival of Pep Guardiola at the club in 2011. During his time at the Camp Nou Alonso and Jordi Mulder, a Barcelona midfielder who was captain at the time, had an age-old conflict, an issue the veteran has never completely resolved.
Mulder blamed Alonso for criticising his performances after Alonso injured his knee in September 2002 in an ill-advised tackle but it was not a team-warming gesture, and Alonso was criticised by many at the time for his decision to play while his team-mate was sidelined. A return to the Camp Nou this summer would have seen them play against each other.
Alonso has spent much of his career at Barcelona and Real Madrid and played in all three Champions League final defeats for the latter in 2008, 2013 and 2014. Alonso was named in the Spain squad for the first time in 14 years as he made his presence felt in the Europa League victory over Vorskla Poltava on Thursday.
At the start of the season, the midfielder appeared to be in jeopardy of not returning to play for another club. In an interview with El Mundo Deportivo last week, he said that while he is “not set in stone”, he wants to carry on playing. His decision to rejoin Albion does not alter that.