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Ex-Real Madrid star Xabi Alonso: Pep Guardiola wanted me at Barcelona
Bayern Munich's ex-Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso has said that he might have joined Barcelona earlier in his career.
Alonso spent five years at Madrid from 2009 to 2014, and was heavily involved in on-pitch battles against Barcelona during the often-turbulent Clasico clashes when Jose Mourinho was Blancos coach.
However, Speaking to El Pais ahead of his return to the Bernabeu with Bayern on Tuesday, Alonso revealed that Pep Guardiola had since told him he almost made an approach to take him from Liverpool to the Camp Nou in 2008, but in end the coach decided to opt for then emerging holding midfield star Sergio Busquets.
"It was the summer that Liverpool wanted to sell me, and there was a conversation between Rafa [Benitez] and Pep [Guardiola]," Alonso said.
"Pep told me about it in Germany. He told Rafa that he liked me a lot and I would fit very well with his way of playing, but Busquets had started in the first team and had tremendous potential. So Pep opted for him, and he was not mistaken. He turned into a great player for them."
Alonso won one La Liga and two Copa del Rey trophies during Mourinho's time at Madrid, and then left the Spanish club to join Guardiola at Bayern after Los Blancos' 2014 Decima Champions League success under current Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti.
The 35-year-old said he expected his return to the Bernabeu on Tuesday to be emotional, and recalled how former Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo had been "stunned" at the reception he received on going back to Manchester United in 2013.
"It was not that I was uncomfortable at Madrid, but I had been there five years and after winning La Decima I wanted to try something else," he said.
"Of course returning will affect me, it will be very emotional. I don't know how I will manage it. I still remember when we visited Old Trafford [in 2013]. Cristiano returned to Manchester and he was overcome, stunned. It was a world-class reception. It will be my goodbye to fans who I respect and who always showed me the same respect."
Bayern went into this year's Champions League quarterfinal against Madrid as favourites, but are now outsiders after Ronaldo scored twice to give his side a 2-1 advantage from last Wednesday's first leg in Munich.
Alonso said it was very difficult for opposition coaches to work out how to stop Los Blancos, saying it was similar to trying to figure out how to shut down Barca star Lionel Messi.
"There are teams who you can analyse and see how to shut them out, stop them from playing down the wings, or through the centre," he said.
"With Madrid you cannot think too much about them. They have so much talent, so much skill in all positions, that it is difficult to stop them -- they can score against you in any way. It happened to us at Madrid with Messi. We asked ourselves how to stop him, then on the pitch he would dribble past three defenders and show up in the area.
"How do you predict this movement? Madrid have this on the level of their team. [To beat them], besides playing well, you must have a bit of luck and for them to not have a good day."