Madrid weigh Alonso deal

Posted by Nicholas Rigg

Will he or won't he? Clubs around Europe will start to tinker with their squads when the mid-season transfer window opens on New Year's Day, but for Real Madrid the biggest deal will surround the future of one of their key senior players in Xabi Alonso.

Madrid's midfield maestro is out of contract in the summer and reports and rumours have been mixed as to whether the former Liverpool man will continue at the Bernabeu beyond this season.

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'Real Madrid see Alonso as a lost cause' was the headline one day on Marca. The next: 'U-turn from Xabi Alonso'. Links to Juventus and Chelsea have been forthcoming, as well as a return to Merseyside, while others believe the Spanish international wants to finish his career in the capital. A return to Real Sociedad has also been mentioned.

Transfer talk has been minimal around the Bernabeu heading into January. Iker Casillas has been linked with Arsenal and Manchester City but Madrid's No. 2 is likely to remain in the Spanish capital, while Alvaro Morata has also been linked with a move to the Premier League on loan. Madridistas are unlikely to see any big transfers coming in either, with plenty of targets mentioned but an arrival date of the summer more likely. It leaves the powers-that-be on both sides of the fence the chance to fully focus on deciding Alonso's future.

The 32-year-old has left it until the last minute to sort out his future and few have complained. Madrid's orchestrator missed the start of the season through injury so it was understandable for he and the club not to commit to anything. Some wondered whether he'd be missed, but Madrid's season so far proves that he has. Alonso still has plenty to offer and Madrid need to secure the future of one of its most important players.

Los Blancos struggled out of the blocks in Alonso's absence earlier this season. Since his return, they have not lost. In the 10 games the midfielder has featured in Madrid has won eight and drawn two, scoring 37 goals and conceding 13. He is the glue that holds the side together and, Osasuna aside (in which Madrid drew 2-2), Madrid's upturn in fortunes since his return has been no coincidence.

Asier Illarramendi was brought in over the summer from Real Sociedad to be Alonso's long-term replacement, but the youngster has some way to go to get to the level his fellow Basque shows week in, week out in La Liga. That's not being harsh on Illarra, who has shown plenty of promise, but Madrid look a much stronger team with Alonso in the middle.

Illarramendi's time will come. That might mean a gradual integration into the first team and not an instant place, but Illarra will only benefit from training and playing alongside one of, if not the, greatest players in his position in world football.

With Sami Khedira sidelined long-term, Alonso has forged a strong midfield partnership with Luka Modric. An accidental one perhaps (unfortunate in Khedira's case), but manager Carlo Ancelotti has been impressed and he looks he'll be sticking with it. That should only act to strengthen a desire to extend Alonso's stay beyond the five years' service he has given Madrid.

Talks over Alonso's future are expected to step-up after the bank holiday on Jan. 6. If Madrid manage to keep him, it will be one of the biggest signings of the mid-season transfer window.

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