If one had been assured that FC Bayern München would sign a central midfielder from Real Madrid CF a week ago, many would have picked Sami Khedira as the transfer target. Instead, Bayern have now confirmed the arrival of Xabi Alonso, who signed a two-year contract on Friday.
Alonso, who Josep Guardiola hinted could make his debut this weekend against FC Schalke 04, said: "It was the hardest decision of my life, but one that was well thought out. I had to be honest with myself and Real Madrid, and you have to know when to say goodbye – now was the time, but it was very hard."
The 33-year-old midfielder, who reportedly costs €10m, is now the fifth Spaniard in Guardiola's squad. Here's a detailed look at the influx in recent years:
The only Spaniard who was not signed by Guardiola. Arriving from Athletic Club as the explicit wish of former coach Jupp Heynckes, Martínez set a Bundesliga transfer record in August 2012 when Bayern spent €40m on him.
It looked like great value considering how influential Martínez was in his first season when Bayern won the treble, but since then he has been plagued by injuries and will be out until 2015 after tearing his cruciate ligament two weeks ago.
"Thiago or nothing," is a now famous quote by Guardiola when he openly admitted that Bayern were pursuing the midfielder during pre-season of last summer. He got his wish when the two-time UEFA European Under-21 Championship winner arrived from FC Barcelona a few days later.
"We need the special attributes that Thiago has," Guardiola explained at the time, although he would only be allowed to tap into those qualities for a limited time. Thiago had just begun to show his worth for Bayern when a knee injury ruled him out for the crucial final stage of last season. He has suffered a few setback since then but is expected to return in October.
The first of three new Spaniards this summer. When he arrived from Valencia CF, many expected him to become a high-quality alternative to David Alaba at left-back. However, as is so often the case, Guardiola seems to have other plans.
Bernat not only featured in most pre-season friendlies, he was also a starter in the first round of the German Cup and during the 2-1 victory in the Bundesliga opener against VfL Wolfsburg. With Alaba handed a new role in central midfield, Bernat is deployed as a left wing back and is considered to have a decent shot of becoming a regular in his first season.
Some teams strive to have a high quality back-up for every position, but Bayern have made an effort to acquire near adequate cover in all departments. "I want to spur Manuel Neuer on as hard as I can," Reina said when being revealed at the beginning of August. Should Neuer be unavailable, Bayern now have two replacement keepers (the other being Tom Starke) who would probably be first choice at 80% of all other Bundesliga clubs.
While there were some critics who argued that Bayern should have made a bigger effort to keep Toni Kroos instead of basically swapping him with Alonso from Real Madrid CF, it is not a quite fair analysis of the current situation. With Martínez out for six months, Bastian Schweinsteiger struggling with ongoing knee problems and the return of Thiago also still some weeks away, Bayern only recently felt they needed to boost the quality in midfield in order to be prepared for what will become a rather stressful autumn.
Alonso was already rumoured to be a transfer target for Guardiola last season and as several internationals are not fully fit after missing most of pre-season due to their post-FIFA World Cup holidays, his experience and strategic thinking should be of help immediately.
In his farewell press conference in Madrid, Alonso explained: "Bayern's interest came about in the last two weeks. I think there's a new cycle at this club, after the emotion of winning the Décima, and that I also have to start a new cycle.
The club didn't want me to go, but understood and accepted my decision for wanting to start a new chapter in my career at a new club.
"I need certain motivations in my career. Maybe here they finished with winning the Décima, and to be at my best I need this change. I need real motivation. In the last few days I spoke to Pep and we spoke about details, what he wants from me as a coach, but nothing more. We'll speak more now.
"Bayern was the best option. From my time in England I have great memories with Liverpool, and therefore going to Bayern was the best choice. I can't wait to get started. They are a club of the same standing as Real Madrid.
"Real Madrid are the world's most important club and it has this history for a reason. I'm proud to have formed part of it, it was a privilege, and my memory of here will be eternal."
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