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Gentleman says adiós

"It's been a pure joy!" Gracias, Xabi!

Xabi Alonso needed precisely three days to make the transition from the Basque Country to Bavaria. On the Friday he met his new teammates for the first team at the team hotel; on Saturday he established himself as the new orchestrator in the FCB midfield at Schalke; then on Sunday he wore Lederhosen for the first time. “It all went very quickly,” he recalls the day at the end of August when an era at Madrid ended and a new one at Bayern began. Now, three years later, Alonso is set for another new beginning. Like Philipp Lahm, he’ll be hanging up his boots on Saturday.

He is "one of our best signings of recent years, a real lucky find, a gifted tactician, a highly intelligent man and one of the most uncomplicated players I’ve ever witnessed,” praised Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. “It’s been a pure joy to have this gentleman with us in Munich.”

Xabi Alonso
"I'm proud of my time here."

Those who have observed Xabier Alonso Olano, born on 25 November 1981 in the small Basque town of Tolosa, will understand why Basque people are regarded as hardworking, dependable and liberal-minded. “Since my first day at Bayern I’ve felt very good here. I’m proud of my time here,” said Alonso. “After winning the Champions League with Real Madrid, I felt that my work there was done.” The offer from FC Bayern came at the right time. “It was a chance to get to know a big club and a new country.” And he took his next club by storm.

Alonso has not only won numerous titles at all the clubs he’s been at, but also the hearts of the people. A member of staff at Liverpool who visited Munich to interview Alonso recently said: “Xabi is still a hero among the fans at Liverpool. Everyone worships him.” A few weeks ago during the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final, 80,000 Madrid fans at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu stood up to applaud as Alonso was substituted. “I’ll remember that moment for the rest of my life,” he said. It was the last of 119 appearances in the Champions League.

Beating the drum

One World Cup, two European Championship and Champions League successes, one Spanish league title, numerous domestic cups and three German league titles to finish with… the 114-time-capped Spain international has won a total of 18 trophies with Real Sociedad, Eibar, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Bayern and the national team. He’s always influenced the playing style of his teams with his passing play.

"I’ve always been a team player. 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,” described rock music fan Alonso. If he was in a band he would play drums, he says: “I’d be giving the rhythm in the background. The limelight’s not for me.”

Ball magnet and passer

Since his arrival at FC Bayern, Alonso has had more touches of the ball than any other player in the Bundesliga (7,890). Just four weeks after his debut he set a new Bundesliga record with 216 touches in an away game at Köln, a record which still stands today. Alonso has played 6,971 passes in an FCB shirt, 90% of which have been successful. This season the 35 year-old has covered an average of 11.14 kilometres per game. Only Joshua Kimmich (11.8km) and Thomas Müller (11.15km) have covered more ground for the Reds this season.

On Saturday Alonso will cover his last blade of grass in his 518th league game and 117th competitive game for Bayern. What happens next is still to be decided for the father-of-three, although he has announced he’s moving back to Spain. Munich and the whole football world will miss him. His passing, his aura, his heart. Gracias, Xabi!

Xabi Alonso's career in numbers (before his final game):

1x World Cup (2010)

1x DFB Cup (2016)

1x La Liga (2012)

1x Spanish Super Cup (2012)

1x FA Cup (2006)

1x FA Community Shield (2006)

1x DFL Supercup (2016)

1x Spanish Footballer of the Year (2003)

2x UEFA European Championship (2008, 2012)

2x UEFA Champions League (2005, 2014)

2x UEFA Super Cup (2005, 2014)

2x Copa del Rey (2011, 2014)

3x Bundesliga (2015, 2016, 2017)

4 clubs: Real Sociedad (2000-04), SD Eibar (2001-03), Liverpool (2004-09), Real Madrid (2009 -14), FC Bayern (2014-17)

116 competitive appearances for Bayern (9 goals)

688 competitive appearances in Spain, England and Germany (43 goals)