At the peak of his powers, Xabi Alonso was the beating heart for an iconic Spain team and three of Europe's powerhouse clubs.
He turned 39 last month and we'd be remiss if we didn't remind you all of his incredible footballing achievements.
🧙♂️ A midfield magician turns 39 today— Futaa.com (@Futaacom) November 25, 2020
🌍 1x World Cup
🏆 2x Champions League
🎖 2x UEFA Super Cup
🇪🇺 2x European Championship
🇪🇸 1x LaLiga
🏴 1x FA Cup
🇩🇪 3x Bundesliga
🧮 2x FIFPro World XI
🎯 Thousands & thousands of accurate passes
🎂 Feliz cumpleaños, @XabiAlonso pic.twitter.com/zpLAb4BaCH
Spain's Golden Generation won three successive major tournaments between 2008 and 2012 with their world-famous brand of Tiki-taka football and Xabi Alonso operated at the heart of it all. He was technically gifted just like Barcelona duo Xavi and Andrés Iniesta, but he also excelled by spreading the ball over longer distances and possessed defensive capabilities that the other two didn't.
Happy 3️⃣9️⃣th birthday, Xabi Alonso! 🎈— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) November 25, 2020
🏆 Four trophies with Liverpool
🏆 Six trophies with Real Madrid
🏆 Five trophies with Bayern
What a career! pic.twitter.com/61MZmzhGBq
Alonso was an elegant ball-player who did things at his own pace on a football pitch, but his long stint with Liverpool brought an urgency and physicality to his game that made him the complete package. Whereas many playmakers down the years couldn't tackle, Alonso relished the ball-winning side of the English Premier League. He also had an eye for the spectacular, infamously scoring more than once from inside his own half for Liverpool and direct from free-kicks when his team needed him.
In terms of the big stage, Alonso wasn't shy to step up to the plate when world football's grandest occasions needed heroes. Alonso scored from the penalty spot to make it 3-3 in Istanbul after the Reds trailed 3-0 at halftime in a staggering Champions League final back in 2005. That was after Dida had saved from 12 yards and he had to bundle home the rebound. Nerves of steel.
He also took a Nigel de Jong boot to the chest in the 2010 World Cup final before making way for Cesc Fàbregas in the 87th minute at Soccer City as Africa hosted the first showpiece of its kind. It was Fàbregas who supplied the pass for Iniesta's stoppage-time winner as Spain ascended to the top of the world for the first and only tine in their history.
It's fitting that Alonso represented three of Europe's truly elite clubs, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich because he was truly an elite operator with very few rivals at the top level.