Given Spain's current embarrassment of riches in midfield areas, even a player as gifted as Xabi Alonso has had to make do with a supporting role. Yet despite not starting each game, Alonso was still able to make an active contribution to La Roja's memorable victory at UEFA EURO 2008.
Favouring a deep-lying central-midfield role, Alonso's ability to create time and space in crowded areas and accurate short- and long-range passing ability put him a cut above many of his more one-dimensional counterparts. Boasting a fierce shot and an eye for the unexpected, opposing keepers can never let down their guard when Alonso has the ball, even when in his own half...
A spectacular rather than a prolific scorer, his first international goal with Spain's seniors came three years after his April 2003 debut, with Alonso hitting the opener in La Roja's first match of Germany 2006 against the Ukraine. This was the player's first FIFA World Cup™ finals but his second major tournament in the red-and-yellow jersey, having also travelled to EURO 2004 in Portugal.
His international profile rose in the English Premier League, where he became a firm fan favourite during his five seasons at Liverpool. His ability in the middle of the park is now being similarly appreciated by the supporters at Real Madrid.