Xabi Alonso, widely regarded as one of the greatest midfielders to have played in a Spanish shirt, returns to his Catalan home city with Bayern Munich after a year with Real Madrid. It will be his first game against Real since leaving for the Bernabeu after 16 years with the club.
At his press conference on Friday, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner said that “it will be great to go back” to Leganes, a town outside Valencia where he lived for many years. “They knew me well,” he said, “so you never can tell.”
Xabi Alonso will play his first game against Real Madrid since leaving for Real Madrid at the Bernabeu tomorrow. He was then. pic.twitter.com/T1Q7t8hC8t — Easidot Sports (@Easidot_Sports) August 19, 2017
However, as soon as it was clear that he would be back at Madrid’s great rivals, what began as a petty schism turned into something of a frenzy. Alonso was fired up by a segment on Spanish TV show El Afectado de la Verdad where Diego Maradona questioned whether his international teammate, Lionel Messi, deserved the Ballon d’Or he won in 2009. Alonso would win the Ballon d’Or in 2014. Maradona asked: “Don’t you think there is another player who deserves it?” And then followed up with a pretty grandly named statement about “the history of the game.”
That set off a knee-jerk reaction, Alonso denounced Maradona on social media, and El Afectado de la Verdad was dropped from the airwaves. After a spate of furore, Alonso was ultimately asked to put his foot down. “I’m worried about the president,” he said on a TV show in Spain, “and why he was so irked. He was now changing everything.” Maradona had in fact previously said: “The next time we play Madrid, we have two teams, one to take away from their best player, the other to play against him.”