Xabi Alonso has reportedly told Bayern Munich that he will be retiring this summer.
The former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Spain midfielder is regarded as one of the finest midfielders of his generation, and is renowned worldwide for his range of passing.
The 35 year old has won two Champions Leagues, two European Championships, two Bundesliga titles, a La Liga title, a World Cup, and an FA Cup among other trophies throughout his glittering career.
Alonso was a fan favourite at Anfield during his time at Liverpool, and speaks fluent English, but Ireland also holds a special place in the Spaniard’s heart.
The classy midfielder travelled to Kells in County Meath to learn English in the mid 1990’s, along with other Spanish teenagers, and Alonso feels the summer in Ireland helped him to adapt to the physicality of English football.
“When I was 16, I went to Ireland for a month to learn to speak English. I didn’t know back then that it would turn out to be so useful! But I had a nice summer,” he told reporters years ago.
“It was the first contact I had with the UK and Ireland, and I realised that they liked to tackle and the physical contact. But I really enjoyed it.”
Xabi stayed with Liam and Fidelma O’Brien, and played soccer (and even Gaelic football) with the locals during his stay.
“I played Gaelic Football with some of the local boys. It was very fast, very tough. Maybe they should wear crash helmets,” he later joked.
The Spaniard also revealed his affection for Ireland ahead of the boys in green’s clash with Spain at Euro 2012.
“Of course I like Ireland. I have played there one summer when I was young and I really like it,” he was quoted as saying in The Irish Daily Star.
“There is a great atmosphere there and they have great fans. I have friends in Ireland and I know Irish players.”
Spain went on to beat Ireland and retain their crown, with Alonso as the metronome in their star-studded midfield.
The midfielder will be remembered as one of the finest midfielders in modern football.