Xabi Alonso to take on Jose Mourinho in Europa League semi-final between Bayer Leverkusen and AS Roma
Xabi Alonso, once the student, will go up against Jose Mourinho, his old Madrid master, in the final four of the Europa League.
Xabi Alonso’s perfectly trimmed beard would give him away even if he put a baseball cap on backwards to fit in at the local high school, but he won’t need to do much pretending when he comes up against his old teacher in José Mourinho. The student is set to take on his old master in a two-legged affair between Bayer Leverkusen and Roma in the Europa League after making it through the quarter-finals with varying degrees of ease.
Alonso’s Bayer smashed Union Saint-Gilloise 4-1 on the night to secure their place in the final four that is also made up of Sevilla and Juventus, as well as Mourinho’s Roma. The Italian side beat Arne Slot’s Feyenoord after a late, extra-time flurry of goals and a red card for Santiago Giménez, which made the result seem a lot simpler on paper than in reality.
Xabi Alonso played for Real Madrid between 2009 and 2014, after a move from Liverpool for reported at the time to be around €35 million. He played a total of 236 games for the club and scored 6 goals from defensive midfield, where he made a name for himself as one of the best centre-defensive midfielders of his generation, with his incredibly accurate long-range passing a particular highlight of his game, as well as his vision and recovery ability.
At Real Madrid he won one league title, 2 Copas del Rey, 1 Spanish Super Cup and one UEFA Super Cup and became a key figure in the Real Madrid side that battled ferociously against the all-conquering Pep Guardiola and his Barcelona team.
José Mourinho took the reigns of Real Madrid in 2010 after Manuel Pellegrini left the role. With his arrival a new era at the club started, in which the rivalry with Barcelona ignited and grew to levels perhaps previously unseen. Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho became the two figures of diametrically opposed styles and ideologies: the Catalan had a revolutionary, possession-based passing style and Mourinho used a defensive yet spring-loaded counter-attacking system.
At Madrid he won the 2011/12 LaLiga title against Guardiola’s Barça, breaking a goals and points record for that season. The year before the title he had claimed the Copa del Rey, beating FC Barcelona at Mestalla with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring a famous header in extra-time to seal the trophy for Los Blancos. Xabi Alonso played the full 120 minutes of the final.
And now, the ex-pupil will go up against his former teacher with a place in the Europa League final at stake; it promises to be an exciting affair and not just for the story that happens across the white line, but also for the history made on the touchline.