Written by By Erica Domesek, CNN
Xabi Alonso had his breakout career in Spain, but this fall the 33-year-old is trying to win back audiences north of the border.
A product of Valencia FC, Alonso, who played on the same Bayern Munich squad as ex-England captain Steven Gerrard , made five La Liga appearances for the club as a midfielder.
Since 2009, he’s helped lead Bayern to three consecutive Bundesliga championships (including the 2017-18 season) as well as back-to-back German Cup triumphs.
“In the moment, it’s a decision to play for Real Madrid and it’s what I wanted and where I stayed,” he told CNN in an interview at the Bayern Munich team hotel.
“I was a professional player in Spain for about six years, and then I made my decision to play in the Premier League and to leave for England.”
2. Determination to succeed
Xabi Alonso. Credit: Tom Jenkins/CNET
In his native Spain, Alonso played for Spanish club Levante and for Celtic in the Scottish Premier League from 2001 to 2006.
Alonso grew up “in a working-class city” with a “small family,” whose immigrant parents brought his sister and brother up, according to CNN. After finishing school, he pursued a scholarship to study business in Madrid.
3. Social justice
Xabi Alonso. Credit: Charlie Bibby/CNET
Through his coaching roles, he’s often drawn attention for his efforts to reach out to other minorities.
The social justice part of the game is also evident in his career — Alonso cites his work as a diplomat during the Bosnian War as a major motivation.
“I remember how life was, and my ability to organize myself to bring people together to be a positive factor in this terrible situation for people who were victims of that war and families that had lost everything. I’d like to see football, all professional football that we do around the world, reflect how important it is,” he says.
4. During Barcelona
“I remember how life was, and my ability to organize myself to bring people together to be a positive factor in this terrible situation for people who were victims of that war and families that had lost everything.” Xabi Alonso
Alonso first came to Barca’s attention in the late 1990s, when he was playing for the Sociedad de Setif from 1997 to 2000.
“The atmosphere was just amazing. The people were very friendly, and it’s very well known that the great Barcelona team of the time won many trophies, and I saw when we won in 1998, ’90, ’86 and ’81, the city was so red and white and everyone, the whole town was rejoicing,” he says.
5. His journey is not over
Alonso understands that his place in the game will always be linked to Spain.
But he’s confident he can play in another European power.
“I’m currently focused on this season, but every year I’m thinking about my career in two years, five years. You never know what’s going to happen,” he says.
“I think in any sport there is a cycle, there is a period in the time of one player where he knows exactly the peak of his career, and then another time the story is different. I’m hoping that it’s two or three years to go. But it’s a very good time to be playing football.”