Xabi Alonso admits Rafa Benitez asked him to leave Liverpool in 2008 but insists he joined Real Madrid a year later on his own accord.
It had been said that Benitez wanted Alonso to make way for Gareth Barry, despite the former Real Sociedad midfielder’s popularity with Reds’ fans, and the latter has now corroborated those claims, although he maintained his move to Madrid in 2009 did not stem from the Coach’s request.
“Rafa came to me and was very clear. He said, ‘Xabi, we need the money to sign other players that I want’, he said in a Guardian excerpt of Ring of Fire: Liverpool FC into the 21st Century – The Players’ Stories.
“In order to make that money, my name was the first on the list to be sold. I said, ‘OK, Rafa, no problem. I am a professional. I understand that’.
“There was interest from Juventus. There was interest from Arsenal. But the clubs could not agree terms.
“I was ready to leave, because the manager wanted me to leave. It did not happen, though. So the next year, the situation was different0
“I went to Rafa: ‘OK, a year ago you wanted me to leave and I accepted it. Now I want to leave . …’ In the end, there was an agreement but it was not easy because he wanted me to stay by that point.
“I was surprised. I was disappointed too, because I was very happy in Liverpool. I could walk down the street and people would beep their car horns and wave.
“None of this would matter to Rafa, of course, but why should it? He was the manager. He has his way of doing things.
“Yes, I can admit that my relationship with Rafa wasn’t as good as it had been in the first year.
“But I didn’t ask to leave because of that. I had been five years at Liverpool. I had the feeling it was the right thing to do.
“Moving from Liverpool to Madrid was the most difficult step to make in terms of the decision. But I felt that I had new things to learn, new challenges to take.
“The only thing I regret is not winning the Premier League with Liverpool. I’ll never know how that feels and experience the reaction of the city, as I did after Istanbul.
“It hurts because I know the people want the league title more than anything.”