Ancelotti strongly denies Xabi Alonso-Pirlo swap rumours

Ancelotti strongly denies Xabi Alonso-Pirlo swap rumours


Rumours and speculation never end when top clubs and players are involved, and Real Madrid is certainly no exception. Fans and journalists alike are notorious for taking an almost guilty pleasure in making connections (however outlandish) between players, coaches and their former alliances. The basis of “proof” is almost always the involved parties’ contract status with their current clubs, and whether or not renewals have been discussed (or disclosed).

The case that concerns us today is the rumoured departure of Los Blancos midfielder Xabi Alonso, whose contract runs out at the end of the season, with no specific renewal discussions having yet transcended. Similar speculation has surrounded Juventus’ Andrea Pirlo, whose current contract with La Vecchia Signora also ends next summer. Unsurprisingly, rumours of a potential swap deal between the two clubs have recently appeared, especially given Real Madrid coach Ancelotti and Pirlo’s long history of fruitful collaboration.

The fellow Italians spent nearly a decade together at AC Milan, from Ancelotti’s arrival in November 2001 to his resignation in May 2009. In this time, the ‘rossoneri’ squad won two UEFA Champions League titles and two European Super Cups (both in 2003 and 2007), in addition to two Italian league titles, among other achievements.

Although the two have remained in contact and maintain a good relationship, Ancelotti has been quick to stop the latest bout of speculation in its tracks, denying outright the possibility of such a deal taking place: “We have no intention of making a player exchange deal with Juventus. There is no substance to any rumour like that.”

As described on this blog in previous articles, Xabi Alonso has revitalised Real’s performance since his comeback from injury this month, and with Sami Khedira out of comission for the foreseeable future with a serious knee injury, the Basque midfielder is expected to be a regular starter in the coming games. This state of affairs lends credibility to Ancelotti’s denial. “Xabi is a vital player for Madrid now that he’s recovered from injury,” he told Mediaset.

Still, the Italian conceded that a swap between the two midfielders wouldn’t be completely illogical: “There are only two players like him in Europe. One is Pirlo and the other is Xabi.” Alonso and Pirlo have both received massive acclaim for their performance in the position they share on the pitch: that of the “deep-lying playmaker”, often referred to with the Italian term of ‘regista’. Operating in a defensive midfielder position, these players provide a balance between defensive and offensive play, and are responsible for the initiation and coordination of the bulk of their teams’ tactics. In the case of players as gifted as the 31-year-old Spaniard and 34-year-old Italian, their work can be likened to that of an orchestra conductor. One of Pirlo’s nicknames is, in fact, “Mozart”.

Alonso was forced to leave the field limping during last week’s 2-1 win over Equatorial Guinea, as a result of an ankle knock, but it ended up just being a scare. Xabi is expected to be in the starting lineup against Almeria this Saturday, after last weekend’s La Liga break.