The countdown continues. Spain’s unlimited depth in midfield is matched by a rising class of goal-scoring midfielders.
20. Xabi Alonso (SPA / Real Madrid)
It was surely the biggest blunder of Rafael Benitez’ Liverpool career when he allowed Xabi Alonso to leave for Real Madrid. The midfield lynchpin had been willing to stay, but was undermined by Benitez’ bizarre attempt to exchange him for Gareth Barry, a vastly inferior player. Many explanations might be offered for Liverpool’s abrupt plunge down the Premier League table last season, but surely none were more salient than the departure of Alonso, whose vision and intelligence had knitted the team together for half a decade. Alonso’s eagle-eyed passing accuracy and elegance on the ball recalls the refined style of countrymen Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Alonso prefers to sit deeper on the pitch, however, to make the fullest use of his extraordinary passing range – unsurpassed in the modern game. Alonso enjoyed a fine debut season with Real Madrid, bringing some much needed composure to the centre of midfield. He also cemented his status as a first team regular for his national team, playing in every match during Spain’s march to victory in the 2010 World Cup. A superb reader of the game, Alonso is Andrea Pirlo’s natural successor as the finest deep lying playmaker on the planet.