As the friendly against Norway ramped up at Asis in Hapoel Kiryat Shmona, Xabi Alonso sat across from his Spanish team mate Rafa Silva. It wasn’t a mere team chat, although surely that would be a germane topic to discuss between the two. Alonso is a Spaniard, his first international trophy with Spain was the 2008 European Championship. But he is also Israeli, the son of a Jew, through marriage, his father Daniel introduced him to sports when he was three.
Alonso still stays at that home in Algiers, still trains on the clay courts, works out on the sand dunes, who knows what’s next. He would like to play a full season for Galatasaray (Chelsea reportedly want to loan him to them for a while) and the offer of playing in a new tournament in Qatar with a new partner clearly enticed him. He did play in the Asian Champions League in recent years, but never made it to the final, so perhaps he saw that tournament as a good chance to showcase himself. It doesn’t take much imagination to realize that he might try and play on an international stage for Israel, maybe even a future World Cup in Qatar.
He knows how good he can be, and there isn’t much that Alonso can’t do. Alonso still sees himself as a player first, which explains his English-like game, and his search for perfection.
“There are moments when you need to think more, you need to play more. You have to work a little bit more with the ball,” Alonso said.
“The role of a player is to get as much as you can from each moment. If you give 100 percent for 90 minutes you have chances to be happy with yourself. I’m not at 100 percent, but I have to work with more attention and training.”
As he fielded more questions, Alonso spoke more, as did the entire team. The conversation soon revealed that Alonso wants to make a name for himself in Israel, and not just Israel, but North Africa too. After all, he spent some four years playing in Italy’s Serie A and La Liga, and spent five years playing in Spain’s first division, and yet Alonso knew that playing on the Israeli national team was more important.
“I played in Spain, I played for Real Madrid and here. In Spain I went to the Champions League finals and the Copa del Rey finals, but I could not win a big trophy,” Alonso said. “Coming here is important for me. I’m not coming here only to play one year and then leave.”
For Alonso, there is more to be done. Some of that might stem from the fact that he is 32, and that one day he will be turning over the 30 bracket.
“You would never know that I am 32,” Alonso said. “When you are young you can do things easily, but as you get older you have to work a little bit more. I am getting older and need more quality, I want to be better.
“I want to contribute to the national team, I want to be important.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story did not indicate Alonso’s second country, but he still plays under the “Israel” cap on his shirt. We regret the error.