"Enjoy myself, win titles and go on holiday!"
The photo went around the world. Xabi Alonso walks slowly along the pitch, glances back, waves to the camera one last time with his left hand and departs carrying his football boots. The end is near for an international career, as he announced exclusively on FC Bayern.tv Live on Thursday. One day on, and it's still causing a wave of tributes.
"So many people have got in touch," described Alonso at a press gathering. "Great players from all over the world. I'd like to thank them all," he said, touched by the reaction to his decision to hang up his boots. And it's not just players; thousands of fans have sent him messages, but Bayern have a special place in his heart. "When I came here I wanted to learn everything – the language, the culture in Germany. I now know the spirit and the character of the people. My family and I are very happy and we want to thank the people here."
"A fantastic person"
Of course, his teammates and coach Carlo Ancelotti had already been made aware of his plans. "They would've liked me to carry on playing," said Alonso. "But this is a decision that I've been thinking about for a long time. I always wanted to end my career at the highest level, and for me Bayern is the highest level," However, now is not the time for early goodbyes. "I still have a bit of time left to enjoy."
Carlo Ancelotti wants to help him do that. "I have to respect his decision," expressed the Bayern coach, who also worked with Alonso at Real Madrid. "We're losing a fantastic midfielder. It's been a pleasure to coach him. He's a great player and a fantastic person. But we still have three months left and we'll try to win the title for him, for Philipp and for the whole club."
"I'll be back"
As he enters the home straight of his career, Alonso is as hungry as ever. "We have the opportunity to win all competitions and that's what we'll try to do. I feel good, the team's playing very well," declared the 2010 World Cup winner. He's convinced that his departure and Philipp Lahm's retirement won't leave a leadership vacuum at FC Bayern. "We have big personalities in the dressing room. A new generation is ready to lead the team."
One question remains: what will he do in the summer? "I've not decided what I'm going to do yet," said Alonso, who in any case will remain in Munich "for a little while longer". The 35 year-old wants to then return to Spain, "enjoy life, have a nice holiday and just take some time out. And above all, not have to make any plans!" Alonso has "several ideas" for his next career move, mostly involving football, but there's been "no decision". One thing is for sure, though: "I'll come back to Munich!"