Carlo Ancelotti is confident that Xabi Alonso will sign a new contract at Real Madrid, and also remarked that he sees a lot his old self in the Basque midfielder.
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Alonso's recent return from injury has coincided with an improvement in Madrid's form, and with his current deal set to expire in the summer many are now asking if he will put pen to paper on a new agreement.
The situation is also being monitored closely elsewhere, with clubs ranging from Chelsea to Juventus to his first side Real Sociedad said to be considering an offer to the Spanish international, who recently turned 32.
Ancelotti told Tiempo Extra that talks were ongoing and he was hopeful of an announcement before the year's end.
"I am not worried about his contract situation because I believe everyone knows he is important," Ancelotti said. "The club is talking with him about a new deal, I hope he is happy to renew it and stay here. His renewal would be the best Christmas present."
Madrid have been flying recently, scoring 13 goals in their last three games across La Liga and the Champions League, and conceding just one. Ancelotti said he was particularly impressed with how Alonso had brought 'balance' to a side which had been involved in some rollercoaster games in his absence.
"We are playing very well in the last two matches," he said. "That does not just mean playing well, also defending well. In other games we did not defend well, we let in many goals. We have shown good balance and Xabi Alonso is the key to this. He is a very important player, he has impressive quality and experience."
He added that Alonso was a similar but better player than he had been.
"I see a lot of myself in Xabi," Ancelotti said. "I believe he has more quality in his passing, he is slow like me, but he has better technical quality."
Alonso would be allowed to rest this weekend, along with the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo, but Madrid would still field a strong team in Saturday evening's Copa del Rey last 32 first leg at third tier Olimpic de Xativa, Ancelotti said.
"I am going to try to put out the best XI," he said. "We have to be careful with some players. Cristiano is suspended, then we have Alonso, and after the injury he had it is best to let him stay here to work. The rest can all play."