Xabi Alonso has explained how Real Madrid “were still in control” under Jose Mourinho, even “when we weren’t dominant.”
Mourinho guided Madrid to a Liga title and Copa del Rey between 2010 and 2013, despite the era of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, and Alonso gave an insight into Los Blancos’ methods under the Portuguese and how they ‘contained’ Lionel Messi.
“That famous 5-0 match at Camp Nou made us change many things,” the former Spain midfielder told Ecos del Balon.
“At the time, we weren’t at the level to compete with that Barca side, but we noticed we could a year later.
“We played a much more dominant game. At the end of 2011, we were abundant in quality and ee knew it: we were able to solve any match in four moves.
“It was like going to a theme park. There were also phases when we weren’t dominant, but we were still in control.
“For example, there was a feeling that from each corner we conceded, we had a better chance to score than our opponents.
“Just look at how we came out… With Mesut, who looked weak but could brutally drive forward 30 yards, Ronaldo, who ran down the wing, crossing the whole length of the pitch, knowing he was going to get the ball eventually, with that conviction, and then, Karim and Di Maria. It was pure power.
“Benzema? He’s half a striker, half a No 10. Many criticise him for that, but I believe it it’s his best quality.
“You can’t look for him in a single move, but in several different ones, in terms of depth, in the box, out wide and behind the [midfield] pivot, which is where the difference is made.
“If you build the game like that, you’re better positioned and more compact. And if you’re closer together, you can press better.
“Messi? He hurt me and I suffered a lot. We talked a lot with Mourinho and Sergio [Ramos].
“How was he hurting us? How could we contain him? Messi played and, from behind, on the inside right, Xavi.
“And they’d provoke us. Xavi would show me the ball, I’d go for it, but Messi would get on my case and Sergio had to come out for him, and he’d crush us like that.
“We only started to control Messi when it was me, and not Sergio, who took care of his marking.
“Xavi’d call me over, but I stayed with Messi and Sergio didn’t have to leave [central defence], and from there, we contained him fairly well.
“We sacrificed yards of the pitch to focus on Messi, and when we contained him, Barca and Madrid were both equal.”