Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso has underlined his support for former boss Jose Mourinho.
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Mourinho memorably fell out with many members of Madrid's squad during his final season at the Bernabeu, including Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Fabio Coentrao, Pepe and Cristiano Ronaldo, who this week said it was “not worth” speaking about his compatriot.
Alonso and former Liverpool team-mate Alvaro Arbeloa were noted supporters of Mourinho during the dressing-room division, with Arbeloa saying in June that he would need to talk things over with Casillas as the pair appeared to fall out over the issue.
Alonso, noticeably one of the few Madrid players to acknowledge their former coach when the Spanish side met Chelsea in the International Champions Cup in Miami, told El Mundo that the fault for any breakdowns in relationships may have lain with players who did not work as hard as Mourinho required.
“[Mourinho] respected the people who were generous with their efforts,” Alonso said. “My father was a coach. I grew up at home respecting him a lot. To be a manager of 25 players is so difficult.”
Alonso said he felt a strong connection to his current club, as he had with Real Sociedad and Liverpool.
“I am very madridista,” he said. “I arrived as a professional and here that makes you a madridista. You have no choice: it is inevitable. I have played for three special teams with a mythical aura: Real Sociedad, Liverpool and Madrid. I will always be for them.”
Alonso did not feature during either Spain’s Confederations Cup campaign or Madrid’s pre-season programme as he recovered from an operation he underwent in June to fix a groin problem that severely hampered his contribution for club and country last term.
The midfielder has now returned to full training, and could even play a part in Sunday’s Primera Division opener against Real Betis at the Bernabeu.
New Blancos coach Carlo Ancelotti has a number of selection decisions to make for that game. In central midfield his options -- besides Alonso -- include Sami Khedira, Luka Modric and Brazilian youngster Casemiro, who was among Madrid’s most impressive performers during their warm-up games.
Isco, the €30 million summer signing from Malaga, is expected to be given his Bernabeu debut on the left of midfield, but Asier Illarramendi, who joined from Sociedad for €39 million, is still continuing his recovery from a thigh problem picked up pre-season.
Ancelotti is expected to give club captain Casillas his first competitive Madrid start since January, and must decide whether to stick with last year’s first-choice right-back Arbeloa or give returning youngster Dani Carvajal a chance to stake a claim for a regular place.
In central defence, Raphael Varane remains a few weeks away from a return from his knee injury, so reported Manchester City target Pepe is required to partner Sergio Ramos.