Should Liverpool midfielder stay to fight for his place?

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It’s been widely reported that Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso is on his way to Italy this summer. However, after giving a masterclass for Spain in last night’s win over Greece, surely Rafa should think again?

Captaining his country on Wednesday night, Alonso displayed the passing range and football know-how that won him plaudits since arriving on Merseyside back in August 2004.

The Liverpool midfielder showed what a good attacking player he is, coming within centimetres of scoring what would have been the goal of the tournament with a trademark shot from inside his own half of the pitch. He also fired another two long-range efforts narrowly wide in the first half and hit the post from 30 yards just after the break.

But it was Alonso’s passing that stood out as exceptional.

Admittedly, there was an extra impetus to his game last night. He was playing for a place in the Spain side that will now face Italy in the next round of Euro 2008. Perhaps that’s what gave the extra dimension to his game last night – a dimension that’s been missing at Anfield all season. But did Liverpool see the real Alonso last season? He struggled with injuries at Anfield during the 2007/08 campaign and rarely got the chance to show the Kop what he is capable of. Now, fully fit, he’s firing on all cylinders.

With Aston Villa captain Gareth Barry reportedly lined up as a replacement for Alonso, it seems Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is contemplating a switch that puts more emphasis on physical prowess than class on the ball.

At times, when he’s played this season, Alonso hasn’t looked up for the fight whereas Gareth Barry has established himself as a very combative midfielder. Barry is a solid passer of the ball but does not have the silky skills of Alonso’s passing game.

With Juventus having reportedly agreed a deal worth 15 million GBP for Alonso, it seems that the Basque lad’s days on Merseyside are numbered. Still, his performance against Spain last night will be a timely reminder to Rafa Benitez that he still has one of Europe’s classiest midfielders on his books.

With the Villa manager Martin O’Neill holding out for serious amounts of cash, maybe it’s time Benitez has a rethink. Xabi Alonso epitomises the pass-and-move game of Liverpool. Maybe it’s time to tell Juventus to go packing!

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