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Jun 10, 2014

Alonso: Anfield one of game's temples

Xabi Alonso said he is now an 'adopted madridista.'

Real Madrid star Xabi Alonso has said joining Liverpool was a key step in his evolution as a player.

Alonso, 32, left hometown club Real Sociedad in 2004 and then spent five years under Rafa Benitez at Anfield, winning the Champions League in 2005 and FA Cup in 2006.

Speaking during a wide-ranging Canal+ interview to be broadcast on Tuesday night, Alonso said: "Liverpool were very clear and sure about what they wanted when they first put themselves in contact with me.

"Benitez pushed for them to sign me and phoned me to explain exactly what they wanted from me, and it was the moment when I needed to take another step in my career, to experience something new and to grow as a person."

Playing in front of the Kop was an experience Alonso said he will never forget.

"Anfield makes a huge impression on you, it motivates you -- it's a place with a lot of charm and, for me, it's one of the temples of football," he said. "There aren't many but Anfield is one of them. It's a no-frills stadium but it's got a lot of soul."

Alonso, who decided to sign a two-year contract extension with Real Madrid back in January, said he has also developed a strong bond with his current side.

"I can't say that I'm a born-and-bred madridista because I'm not," he said. "My club has always been Real Sociedad, the same as my wife, my family. Once I began be interested in football, I started going to Anoeta every Sunday to watch La Real. I'm an adopted madridista really. Madridismo entices you in, the more you experience it and start to understand it."

Madrid enjoyed a highly successful campaign under Carlo Ancelotti, winning the Copa del Rey before ending their long wait for the Champions League.

Alonso is one of the few players to still offer public backing for Ancelotti's predecessor, Jose Mourinho, but accepts the club had struggled during the Portuguese's final campaign.

"Mourinho arrived at Madrid with a great reputation, with a lot of prestige," he said. "Madrid is a club which you have to respect right from the very start. As a person, Mourinho is very demanding -- he is demanding with himself and demanding with the players.

"There were problems in his final year. There were some conflicts between individuals, which had repercussions on the dynamic of the team as a whole."

Alonso said he is unsure what he will do when his playing career comes to an end.

"Football can be very intense and when it's time for me to hang up my boots, I would like to spend some time for myself with my family," he said. "The transition from being a player to becoming a former player isn't easy -- some manage to do it well and others don't. It's something which I will need to reflect on in depth when the time comes."

Meanwhile, the Spain international spoke of his admiration for newly promoted Basque side Eibar, having already backed a campaign to ensure they are allowed to play in the top flight despite difficulties concerning financial regulations.

Alonso, who had a loan spell with the club in the 2000-01 campaign, said: "Eibar remind me a little of Antiguoko, who with few resources and a limited budget get the best out of their players.

"Eibar are exactly the same but on a professional level -- they do things well, they are responsible and careful with expenditure and they use what little resource they have well. They've made history, they've done extremely well, but they have always done things that way."

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