Steven Gerrard - Captain of Liverpool FC and Vice-Captain of the England National Team; Xabi Alonso - Real Madrid midfielder and I don't actually know who the Vice-Captain of Spain is but I'm sure Xabi is considered as 'a senior player'
I feel like at this point I should get out some FIFA stats and talk about Xabi's pass completion rate and the number of goals Steven Gerrard has scored from outside the box. But I wont do that. Xabi is a centre midfielder and I'm pretty sure that if you ask Stevie what position he plays, he'd say the same but I don't necessarily think that's the case. But whatever (that's a completely different argument - trying to figure out what steven gerrard's best position is in a team is legit like beating a dead horse over and over again), for all extensive purposes: they play in the same position.
Can't Go Back Now - The Weepies This is my S/X tune and I know it's a little depressing and perhaps not representative of their relationship in it's entirety but it fits.
i) Before The Beginning
ii) The Summer of 2004
iii) The Beginning
iv) A Season on the Brink
v) They'll Name a City After Us
vi) The Steven Gerrard Transfer Saga
vii) The Rafalution
viii) The Adopted Son They Couldn't Drive Away
x) The End
i) BEFORE THE BEGINNING
Both Xabi and Stevie broke into the first team at their respective childhood clubs - in Stevie's case: Liverpool, and in Xabi's case: Real Sociedad. They both debuted at the age of 18 (note: stevie is one year older than xabi) Xabi went on loan to a smaller club for a little while, Stevie helped Liverpool win the treble in 2001 and after doing things like scoring against Germany, would eventually be hailed as ~the future of england's golden generation~ (the golden generation that has won fuck all, thanks guys)
While Stevie went through drama with injuries and the bones in his back, Xabi was made captain at the sweet, tender age of 19 to a struggling Real Sociedad side. Amazingly enough, Xabi flourished and through his captaincy the side even managed to qualify for the CL and finish 2nd place in La Liga. Xabi was at once hailed for his acheivement and ended up getting to play for the National Team. A similar situation would mirror itself in Liverpool's 03/04 season when Stevie was made captain at the age of 23. He dragged a really bad (when I mean bad, I mean: EUUUUGH BAD) Liverpool side to 4th place in the league and CL qualification. With the Liverpool side looking pretty pathetic and useless at this point in time, the current manager (Gerard Houllier) was fired and replaced. MEANWHILE IN SPAIN: Things weren't looking to great for Real Sociedad either after finishing towards the bottom of La Liga and despite Xabi's love for the club that had nurtured him, he began to look for a move.
~~CHANGE WAS ON ITS WAY~~
DA DA DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUM
ii) THE SUMMER OF 2004
The summer of 2004 involved an immense amount of drama. EUROS!!! Both Stevie and Xabi played for England and Spain respectively though I doubt any clandestine, accidental meeting took place. It was also around this time that Mourinho became manager at Chelsea and the club kept trying to buy Stevie. There was a lot of fancy, illegal tapping up going on. Because Stevie was more or less stuck in one place with Lampard and JT and they would go on about how brilliant Chelsea was because of all the money they had now and all the players that were coming in and their fancy new manager and they made it sound sooo exciting and Stevie probably looked at the state of Liverpool at that point in time and felt a little depressed. ANYWAY, according to Stevie, all reports of him leaving for Chelsea in 2004 were rumour and conjecture. Still. Lots of speculation went on about his future and that of his friend and fellow ~golden generation engurland superstah~ Michael Owen.
- MICHAEL AND MIKEL
Xabi and Stevie both grew up playing alongside their close friends Mikel Arteta and Michael Owen. Michael Owen broke through to Liverpool's first team before Stevie did and at the time he was a much, much bigger deal. I mean, of course Stevie looked like a new and exciting prospect but Michael had like, the heart of the entire English nation. So, in that respect Stevie was under his shadow for a little bit but they struck up an amazing midfield/striker partnership which was definitely a factor in Liverpool's successes early in the decade. Playing with Michael meant a lot to Stevie, I think. He is not someone who enjoys change a lot - especially in respect to people. I don't think he's quick to give compliments or is easily trusting, so I do feel he gets affected when he grows attached to something and then it gets taken away. PSYCHOANALYSIS PART I.
Mikel did not play with Xabi at Real Sociedad but he did sign on to in 2004! I suppose they would have run the midfield together but alas, poor Mikel, it was not to be. He would eventually end up in Liverpool (the city, not the club) when he signed for the Blueshite/Everton. Now, I dislike Everton tremendously and it is annoying when Arteta scores against us but I admire his loyalty to the club so, so, so much. He has now been at Everton, longer than Xabi ever was at Liverpool (lol spoiler alert) and the only reason he moved in the first place was because Xabi convinced him to!
Anyway, the Euros came and went with little success for England or Spain. Rafa Benitez was appointed as the new Liverpool manager. After many rumors, it was finally confirmed that Stevie would be staying for the upcoming 04/05 season. Rafa also tried to convince Michael to stay but he decided that he wanted to leave and moved to Real Madrid. Rafa went about attempting to build a squad and sold Stevie's best friend Danny Murphy to another English club (completely understandable because Danny Murphy is really not that good and he was a bit of deadweight at that point) Having sold one midfielder and coupled with all the rumors of Stevie possibly leaving, Rafa felt that it was best to buy another quality CM. Hmm... I WONDER WHO WAS AVAILABLE IN THE M
~Meanwhile in Spain: Xabi Alonso was the new shiny thing that everyone had to have and it appeared that a number of clubs ranging from Real Madrid to Arsenal were interested. In August 2004, he made his decision and said goodbye to Real Sociedad.
"...it was the club, the history. I had no hesitation in choosing Liverpool" - Xabi Alonso
I always get confused when I try to sort out Stevie's initial immediate feelings/reaction to Xabi. A part of me can't help but think that he must have felt at least a little threatened and intimidated as well as resentful. Danny got kicked out of the team to make way for Xabi. Xabi's mere presence meant more competition for the CM spot. So. I don't know.
A couple of years before this, Stevie did an interview where he was asked what he was afraid of and he said he was scared of not achieving what he thinks he is capable of achieving - which I suppose could sound obnoxious to some but it just depresses me really. That kind of mentality was never more evident than it was in 04/05. The speculation about him leaving for Chelsea that had begun in the Euros would follow him for the rest of the coming season
"I have trained every day and every day I realise how good the players are, particularly Steven Gerrard. I see how the fans love him, and they are right because he is a very special player" - Xabi Alonso
iv) A SEASON ON THE BRINK
You know I look at Spurs now and how well they're doing in the CL and it is, I think, sliiightly reminiscent of Liverpool in the 04/05 season. Not their way of play but, their dramatic comebacks and how surprisingly well they're doing in the CL, being underdogs. JUST WATCH: I BET YOU THEY WILL SOMEHOW END UP WINNING T
Also! Also! There is a myth I would like to dispel. Fandom often appears to have the urge to romanticize Stevie and Xabi's midfield partnership or they deem it better than it actually is which like, fair enough, but while they are both very good individual players, as a duo, I don't really think they were anything to write home about. Xabi has formed much more effective partnerships with people like Mascherano and Momo Sissoko while Stevie is better playing further up the field. I suppose this is subject to debate but it's something I don't mind talking about and I don't think it takes away from their otp-ness.
Obviously they still had a valid impact on each other's games. Xabi's vision and his long-range passing were vital to Stevie's attack and allowed him to be as effective and dangerous as he was just outside the penalty area. It's interesting because Xabi is so painfully slow and Stevie is really fast and good at covering large areas of space in a short amount of time. And Xabi's game is all about intelligence and approaching the sport like an artist whereas Stevie's is more physical dynamism and harder, faster, stronger. IT'S A PRETTY CONTRAST NO? It's probably why the 'if Steven Gerrard's the heart of the team, then Xabi Alonso's the brain' comment is so fitting.
Ok, ok, ok BUT what is most interesting about Stevie and Xabi is their relationship on a psychological level (this sounds more srs bzns than it actually is). Because 23 is a pretty young age for someone to become captain. Especially to a club like Liverpool at a time when they were floundering and the city, the fans have such huge expectations and everyone always wants to win because it's expected of a club of this calibre. But Stevie was made captain, I assume, because he was a 'local lad' and it was thought it would improve his game and tbh back then (in 03/04) he was doing most of the work for the rest of the team anyway. So when Xabi came (Xabi, who had captained his club at 19 and led with unbelievable maturity) it was to a club with a captain who was still a little immature, who was struggling with losing his friends, who had a slightly strained relationship with the manager. And I do think Xabi played a significant part in helping Stevie grow into his captaincy because he was there - at the beginning, when it was still wonky and still being figured out. And when Stevie would get frustrated about the direction Liverpool was going in, Xabi would tell him to be patient and that it would happen eventually, Liverpool would win things eventually - and they did.
After numerous dramatic matches, injuries, a bumpy season in the league; Liverpool reached the semi-finals of the Champions League where they were drawn against Chelsea. Xabi was carded in the first leg and thus suspended from the home-tie at Anfield. There isn't a clip of it on youtube but the card was completely and totally unjustified. Mourinho knew that Xabi was already on a yellow so I don't think it's a huge leap to suggest that he wanted to ensure Xabi got another which meant he wouldn't get to play in the next, decisive game.
The only disappointment came when the referee, Alan Sars, booked Xabi for a challenge on Eidur Gudjohnsen, which ruled Xabi out of the Anfield return. What really angered us was that Gudjohnsen clearly conned Sars. He dived. No question about it.
‘I never touched him,’ Xabi said in the dressing-room afterwards.
‘Don’t worry, Xabi,’ I replied. ‘We’ll get through. We’ll beat Chelsea. We’ll sort Gudjohnsen out for you. Join us in the final.’
But Xabi was inconsolable, close to tears. He loves playing and felt bitter resentment towards Gudjohnsen. We all did. Xabi is a huge player for Liverpool, and a really popular guy, and a big match like Chelsea at home was made for a midfielder of Xabi’s class. We read all the allegations in the papers that Gudjohnsen told Xabi he knew he was on a booking. True or not, that fired us up even more. Chelsea were going to fucking well get it at Anfield
- Steven Gerrard
[I suppose Xabi doesn't weep in dressing rooms anymore since he now does weird-ass dances in order to purposely get booked (LOL OH I WENT THERE JK JK JK)]
In the end, Xabi not being a part of the match didn't matter - Liverpool won and Chelsea lost and we were going to the final and Maureen could suck it.
v) THEY'LL NAME A CITY AFTER US
Do I even need to talk about Istanbul and it's significane? I love this compilation of the final. I think it really brings out the essence of what the game meant and every feeling surrounding it. Stevie scored a header and then won Xabi's penalty which he scored on the rebound. Good times.
Post-penalty pow-wow! I congratulate Milan on his successful Stevie/Xabi smushing. I so desperately wish there was audio for this moment - I think above any other point in time, I want to know what was said here. Oh well! And then we won and everyone knows what happens next:
Gratuitous, lulzy, cheesy music but please make not of the hand on the back of Stevie's neck as well as all nuzzling/ear-biting/whatever is going on.
[FAST-FORWARD OVER 5 YEARS LATER:
Embedding is disabled; watch here
Interviewer: We're going to change the subject from a violent moment to a romantic one: your kiss with Gerrard. It was so beautiful! I hope you tell me you've celebrated better on other ocassions.
Xabi: Well, it was a spur of the moment thing, but I think it's just a funny anecdote, he came to me...
Interviewer: Keep in mind it was him.
Xabi: But well, I answered.
Interviewer: Would you do something like that again?
Xabi: No, you don't prepare for that kind of thing
Frame-by-frame hugging! Or bouncing! Whatever it is they're doing! You know after you score a goal and you celebrate and people jump all over each other and it's perfectly normal because you've just scored a goal. Which is why off-pitch celebrating ala this is about 100% better because while their obviously euphoric, it's still random squishing on the sideline in the midst of a bunch of different people.
THESE PICTURES REALLY DO NOT GET OLD, FYI. XABI, THE CUP IS NOT A HAT, ETC ETC. CAN WE JUST LIVE IN THIS GLORIOUS PERIOD OF TIME FOREVER AND EVER? Also, Stevie and Xabi were roommates in Istanbul - this would have been the perfect ending to an amazeballs Champions League campaign but Stevie ruins it in his book by specifically mentioning how Xabi did NOT spend the night in their room and talking about how he took the European Cup to bed with him and kissed it and held it and made sweet sweet love to it (ok, he didn't actually say 80% of that but seriously, he might as well have)
vi) THE STEVEN GERRARD TRANSFER SAGA
lol, contemplating completely skipping over this part. Dark, dark, dark times. Speculation over Stevie leaving continued pretty much throughout the 04/05 season and then reached it's climax after Istanbul when a new contract still wasn't signed. Heh, Wayne Rooney ain't got nothing on this kind of prolonged drama. I won't talk about reasons for leaving or what went on behind the scenes. Steven Gerrard did effectively hand in a transfer request saying he wanted to leave Liverpool. Here is a brief history of what went down with Stevie's statement on leaving et al. At the time, I'm pretty sure £32m was the most amount of money ever spent on an English player(Maybe it still is? How much did Citeh pay for Milner?). The day after Stevie confirmed he was leaving, he decided to stay and everyone went WHAAAAAT and it was all very dramatic.
- He offered to give up the captaincy but Rafa said that after talking to several players and discussing it, he decided that Stevie should keep it.
- He also asked Rafa if he could apologise to the team in private
"It is great news for everyone in Liverpool. Stevie is everything, a symbol for the team and although nobody is indispensable we would have started the new campaign on the wrong foot. Gerrard is wanted by all and I do not believe that it was a question of money for all those involved. These last few days the team did not train with the same joy but now I have noticed the spirit is back." - Xabi Alonso
vii) THE RAFALUTION
The next four season at Liverpool were not perfect but there was always a common thread of joy, always something building. I LOVE the '06 FA Cup win.
The Luton match on the road to the final is one of my favourites ever and is filled with a glorious amount of S/X.
The best part of the entire thing is Stevie shouting at Xabi for not passing to him while simultaneously watching the ball go into the net. And the fact that Xabi runs up to hug him regardless.
[I LOVE THIS SO MUCH - XABI'S DICHOTOMY OF MANGLED ENGLISH AN
I wish these were shiny, HQ and untagged - I have ridiculous amounts of love for them. Speaking of things that need to have less tags: THIS. GRABBY HANDS. WHAT ARE THEY DOING
“What’s nice is that in our dressing room it’s not ‘England’ and ‘Spain’" - Xabi Alonso
viii) THE ADOPTED SON THEY COULDN'T DRIVE AWAY
'The Adopted Son They Couldn't Drive Away' is the title of a piece on Xabi (with an interview) that The Guardian did in 2008. There should probably be a section entitled ~The Arrival of Fernando Torres~ but this is already the longest thing ever so: sorry Nando. Anyway, in the summer before the 07/08 season Liverpool did buy Fernando Torres and he was amazing. The team hadn't had a genuinely great, legitimate striker since Michael Owen's glory days. And just like Michael Owen, he was able to form a striking partnership with Stevie - one that became world renowned. But while their partnership flourished, Xabi's form wavered that season and suffered due to injury.
Here's where things get messy. I'm going to gloss over this bit because it's not fun to talk about and this post is supposed to be FUN11!1!! Xabi and Rafa's relationship became quite agitated. Rafa tried to sell Xabi (not because of the state of their relationship) - and his reasons for doing so are understandable. Maybe not now with the kind of form Xabi is in and has been for the past 2 years but back then Rafa had to consider that he already had Mascherano and Lucas as midfielders. Masch was awesome, Lucas was young and promising and then there was... Gareth Bary who was the ~it thing. Rafa's record in Europe was amazing but there was huge pressure on him to deliver in the League as well and it seemed like Bary was just the person to do it. I know Stevie has been quoted as saying he'd love for Barry to come to Liverpool BUT BUT BUT BUT: He never spoke about it being at the expense of Xabi AAAAAND: What was he supposed to say??! Stevie has known Barry since they were like, 20. They're friends, he can't go "NO GARETH IS UNWELCOME"
Anyway, there were rumours of Arsenal and Juventus but deals fell through and Xabi ended up staying.
“I would like to say a word for Xabi, this has been a very difficult time for him right up to the transfer window shutting. He didn’t know whether he was coming or going, but he got man of the match against United today and that says a lot about him.” - Steven Gerrard
Arguably Liverpool's best players of the 08/09 season were Stevie and Xabi. It was an amazing, amazing season filled with heart and spirit and good football and teamwork and awesome matches and moments and gfjghgfkgjfd IT WAS FUN. It sounds so base to talk about it like this when it was such a high. It's so easy to think about 'what ifs' and how close we came to winning the League. I TRY NOT TO.
ENDING CHELSEA'S UNDEFEATED RECORD AT HOME!!! BECAUSE XABI SCORED!!! WHY ARE THERE SO MANY EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!
OTHER SHINY IMAGES!!! THIS IS SO LONG MY COMPUTER IS LEGIT DYING FROM THE WEIGHT OF IT, OR THE HEIGHT, WHATEVER.
The Blackburn game towards the end of the season is another favourite (not only because of the really good goals SURPRISINGLY) just for the stuff on the bench with Fernando moving seats and Xabi's comforting, pat-thing. (BEFORE I FORGET!! This video must be included. Stevie talking about Xabi and how important he is. Fluffy times)
AND THEN SUMMER CAME AND XABI ALONSO HAN
x) THE END
I feel like Xabi's reasons for leaving have been speculated ad-nauseam and I don't want to get into it. I have my opinions and I should leave it at that. The fic All the Hearts in the World is a pretty good discussion of the whole ordeal. My favourite reason presented in fic is in Always Leaving, But. So, decide what you will. Let's just talk about the aftermath hmm?
"Devastated, yeah. Devastated. But there was nothing I could do about it. Xabi said a long time ago that he wanted another chapter in his career and finally he got it and his team-mates and the coaches couldn't stand in his way. We just have to say thanks and move forward without him. It's always going to be different when you lose one of the best players in the world," said Gerrard, "and people are finally realising that's what he is, on the back of his form for Real Madrid and the difference in us from last year. We've got other midfielders here doing a good job but it will take a while before Alonso's out of our system because he was such a top player... He was sometimes underrated when he was here because of the likes of Fernando Torres and that, but when you play with him and without him you realise how much he meant to you, both as a player and the team as a whole" - Steven Gerrard
[LOL, I love FourFourTwo's 'You're really gutted about this aren't you?' Like, I can imagine Stevie in a room dressed completely in black, unshaven and the interviewer keeps offering him coffee and cookies because he looks like he's on the verge of a break down heh. Well, at the very least they could sense he was sad!]
I think when you spend five significant years of your career playing with a specific type of player (and Xabi was very special in terms of his ability and what he could do) its like being doused with ice water when you have to figure out how not to. Steven Gerrard's form the year after Xabi left was horrible - probably the worst of his career. There were rumours of him being angry at Rafa and blaming him for Xabi leaving. I'm not saying Xabi leaving = Liverpool's failure. Different factors contributed to it; Stevie had to deal with a lot of injuries and family drama so. But yeah, like I said when I was talking about Michael leaving in 2004 - I don't thik Stevie is someone who likes change and I think he got really comfortable having Xabi there; not just the way he played but his leadership and his calmness and what he contributed to Stevie's development.
Anyhoo, with Liverpool finishing 7th in the League there were tons of rumours of Stevie leaving - specifically to Real Madrid (assumedly because Mourinho is always there and he's always trying to buy him or something or the two are inevitably linked IDK)
STEVIE DIDN'T LEAVE BECAUSE: L-O-L. But ooh, the World Cup!!!
Xabi came back to Anfield in December 2009 to watch the match against Arsenal and then again a few days ago against Aston Villa. Despite Stevie being injured, the two didn't sit next together. FAIL :/
AND THAT'S IT!!! Except not really, I've left numerous events and pictures and quotes out but LOOK AT HOW LONG THIS POST IS. I couldn't fit everything in. I hope Stevie and Xabi don't ~die~ the way all football ships inevitably do. They still seem to be going relatively strong fandom-wise despite living in different countries and stuff so!
Thought it would be a good idea to update the post if anything interesting came up so:
Forgetting the Things We Know
5 times stevie didn't say 'i love you' & the one time he did
Where Love That Traveled Far Has Found Us
This is the Wonder That Keeps Stars Apart
Before Everything is Over
Midnight on the Halfway Line
Games and the Amusements of Mankind
If Somebody Speaks of Magnificent Things
Five Places Where Steven Gerrard Fell in Love with Xabi Alonso
Open Your Eyes
Away With Words
All the Hearts in the World
Red and White
It's Not Like a Tree Where the Roots Have to End Somewhere
Always Leaving, But
This is How Life Goes
5 Times Stevie and Xabi Almost Got Caught
As the World Comes Down
City of Angels
credits: gettyimages, fygerlonso, propaganda-photo.com, stevieandxabi