Former Liverpool Boss Rafa Benitez Explains Why He Wanted To Swap Xabi Alonso For Gareth Barry

Benitez explains madness of summer 2008.

Former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has suggested that he wanted to swap pass-master Xabi Alonso for Gareth Barry because the latter was more versatile.

In the summer of 2008, then-Reds boss Benitez raised eyebrows on Merseyside when he attempted to land Aston Villa midfielder Barry and offload fans-favourite Alonso to Juventus.

But Liverpool failed to agree a feee with Aston Villa for Barry and both players stayed put.

The following summer Benitez, however, did sell Alonso to Real Madrid for £30m, purchasing hopeless £20m flop Alberto Aquilani as a replacement with Barry joining mega-rich Manchester City.

Benitez’s attempts to replace Alonso with Barry has long been the source of bafflement to fans and experts alike. Although Barry has played his part in City’s recent success, Alonso is widely regarded as one of the finest deep-lying midfielders in the world and was instrumental in Spain’s two European Championship and one World Cup win.

The Spaniard, now 30, has also helped Real to reclaim the La Liga title from Barcelona and it is understood that he did not want to leave Liverpool, where he had a contract until 2012, despite interest from the Spanish capital.

In his new book, ‘Champions League Dreams’, Benitez has explained the logic behind the attempts, admitting the Barry’s versatility was an important factor.

“Barry appealed to us for a number of reasons. I have never been the sort of manager who prioritises a system above all else: I am willing to change and adapt my preferred formations given the strength of my squad or the requirements of a particular game,” quotes Football365.

“Barry was perfect: he could play as a central midfielder, of course, but he had some experience as an attacking left-back, which would be a useful option for home games where we were expected to go forward, and even as a left-winger.

“We knew we would have to sell players that summer if we were to raise the funds to bring in the reinforcements – and, in particular, the British reinforcements – we needed,” he wrote.

“That would require parting company with one of our current squad members who would fetch a substantial fee. We decided that the most likely candidate was Xabi Alonso, who had been a great player for us since we signed him from Real Sociedad, but had not quite performed to his best in the last couple of years.

“Negotiations with Aston Villa over Barry were much slower going, though. We could not agree a fee that we felt was suitable and it became increasingly clear there was little or no chance that a deal would be completed. At almost the same time as we made it plain to Juventus that they would have to meet our valuation if they wanted to sign Alonso, we pulled out of talks with Villa.”

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