35-year-old Xabi Alonso has finally called time on a career as illustrious as his own facial hair, and will hang up his boots at the end of the current season with Bundesliga front-runners Bayern.
The fifth-most capped player in Spain’s footballing history and first player to reach 1,000 Premier League passes in a season is an icon both on and off the field and is held in the highest regard at every club he has represented.
In honour of his preferred shirt number, here’s 14 of the all time best Xabi moments:
Finishing second in La Liga with Real Sociedad
Alonso arrived at Anfield in the summer of 2004 as a relative unknown to most Premier League fans, but the midfield maestro was already an accomplished player in Spain.
Appointed captain under former Liverpool star John Toshack, Alonso rose to become a leader at Real Sociedad and was a key figure in the Basque side’s surprise second place La Liga finish in 2003 – just two points shy of Real Madrid.
The rising star was even awarded Don Balon’s Spanish Player of the Year 2003, before completing a £10m move to Liverpool.
First goal for Liverpool
Alonso didn’t take long to endear himself to the Kop under Rafa Benitez’s Spanish revolution.
The technical central midfielder banged in his first of 19 goals for the club in spectacular fashion, with a free kick David Beckham would’ve been proud of to complete a comeback from 0-2 down against Fulham in the Premier League.
The 2005 Champions League final
Steven Gerrard, Jerzy Dudek and Didi Hamann may get the lion’s share of the plaudits for the fabled Miracle of Istanbul, but it was Xabi’s rebounded penalty that completed the unlikeliest of comebacks.
Alonso has ?described the incredible win as “the best moment in my professional career.”
The 2006 FA Cup win
Liverpool and Alonso followed up the Champions League win with the FA Cup a year later.
Once again, the Reds won a final on penalties, after a thrilling 3-3 finish, in a game they never led.
The Spaniard scored twice on the way to the final and got an assist in the showdown at the Millennium stadium.
That goal against Newcastle
Regardless of Steve Harper’s inexplicable antics, this goal is still an absolute belter from 65-yards.
The strike was actually Alonso’s second from inside his own half for Liverpool, after he cooly powered in against a keeper-less Luton in the dying moments of an FA fixture.
He made pub quiz history as the only outfield player in modern professional football history to score two consecutive goals from inside his own half. Outrageous.
Ending Chelsea’s four year unbeaten run
Not content with just setting his own records, Alonso also started ending others and it was his deflected effort against Chelsea in October in 2008 that finally ended the Blues four year, 86-match unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge.
The 0-1 win for Liverpool put them top of the table, and the club eventually finished second behind Manchester United, with record points tally.
In 2009, Alonso became the first Premier League player to complete 1,000 passes in a season.
World Cup winner
Alonso played every game of Spain’s 2010 World Cup win in South Africa and formed the midfield heartbeat of Vicente del Bosque’s tiki-taka philosophy.
The now-Real Madrid midfielder is perhaps best remembered from this tournament for receiving a rib-breaking kick to the chest in the final from Netherlands bruiser Nigel de Jong, that was controversially ignored by referee Howard Webb.
Winning La Liga
Alonso completed a £30m move to the Santiago Bernabeu in the summer of 2009, as part of president Florentino Perez’s second wave of Galacticos, but had to wait until 2012 to secure his first La Liga title and first league title of his career.
Back to back Euros
Alonso remained a key player for Spain, surpassing 100 caps for his country during Euro 2012.
His centenary game typified his international importance, as the midfielder scored twice to defeat France 2-0 and send Spain into the semi-finals.
A penalty shoot-out miss in the next game against rivals Portugal did little to slow down Spain on the way to consecutive European Championships and mark a run of three straight international tournament victories.
Xabi earned his second Champions League winners medal as Real Madrid claimed their tenth in the 2014 triumph over local rivals Atletico Madrid.
The pass master actually missed the final through suspension but was a regular as los Blancos defeated the likes of Bayern Munich and Dortmund en route to Lisbon.
Breaking the passing record in a Bundesliga game
The newly-double Champions League winner joined Bundesliga juggernauts in 2014 under Pep Guardiola and rapidly established himself as key lieutenant of the new style.
In a Bundesliga encounter with Koln in September Alonso set a new record for completed passes with 196 – over two a minute.
100 Champions League appearances
It may have been a bittersweet occasion, due to an unfortunate red card, but Alonso reached 100 Champions League caps in February 2015 in a 0-0 draw with Shakhtar Donetsk in the knockout rounds.
The playmaker is the competition’s eleventh highest ever appearance maker, with more outings than Paolo Maldini, John Terry or Thierry Henry.
Back to back Bundesliga titles
Alonso has won the Bundesliga in each of his seasons with Bayern, and (barring a Leipzig uprising) is currently on course for a third consecutive title this campaign.
Despite his advancing years the master of the long-ranger has made 14 appearances this season, scoring three.
All the passes