Former Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso has spoken extensively about how the team got to terms with little Argentine wizard, Lionel Messi, and his Barcelona teammates while Jose Mourinho was still in charge.
Alonso was a key part of the Real Madrid team that wrestled the Spanish La Liga title from Barcelona during the 2011/12 season.
The former Liverpool and Bayern Munich midfielder was speaking to Ecos del Balon.
Alonso who retired at the end of last season said: “There were phases of the game when we were not dominant, but we were in control.”
“For example, there was a feeling that every corner against us was a chance for us. When we countered…
“With Mesut, who seemed weak but could carry the ball 30 yards brutally, Cristiano ran up the opposite side knowing that he would get the ball at the end of the move, and Karim and ‘Fideo’ [Di Maria]. Pure power.”
On how they dealt with Messi and Xavi, the Spanish World Cup winner said: “Messi did me a lot of damage, I suffered a lot.”
“He made us squeeze our heads a lot. We spoke a lot with Mourinho and with Sergio [Ramos]. How was he damaging us? How could we control him?
“Messi was playing, and behind him on the right of midfield was Xavi. And they provoked me. Xavi would show me the ball, I would go, Messi would get in behind me and Sergio would have to come out to cover him, and they cut through us.
“You only began to control Messi when it was me, not Sergio, who was in charge of marking him. Xavi called me, but I stayed with Messi and Sergio did not have to come out, and from there, we controlled him pretty well.
“We sacrificed metres on the pitch, and to be able to win the ball back, to prioritise dealing with Messi. And when we controlled this position, the Barca-Madrid games became even.”
Xabi Alonso further revealed that he learnt a lot at his last club, Bayern Munich. He said: “At Bayern, we played 90 minutes in the opposition half.”
“I did not have to cover so much ground, I kept my position and made smaller efforts. In the last years, it was very good for me. And I learned so much. It was very enriching.”
On the much maligned Benzema, the former Real Sociedad midfielder made a strong case for the Frenchman. He said: “Benzema is half centre-forward, half No. 10.”
“Many people criticise him for that, but I believe it is his best virtue. He does not just have one move, but many different ones. In behind, in the area, out wide, and behind the holding midfielder, which is where he makes the difference.
“And if you build the play like this, you are better positioned. More together. And if you are more together, you can press better.” he concluded.