This 30-year-old Mark Wahlberg look-alike displays all the versatility of a gifted actor on the field. As a central midfielder he can play the tough guy or the hero, shielding his defenders or spraying around pinpoint passes, including some of the best balls over the top out there.
Coy but eclectic off the field -- he became a fan of Gaelic football after going on a school exchange to Ireland -- Alonso seems to be one of those rare players who seldom has a bad game on it. And it is his coverage of extensive real estate and positional diligence that allow attacking string pullers Xavi and Andres Iniesta to stalk forward without having to worry very much about the space they’re vacating.
Expert's take: It can be argued that Alonso provides that base with the qualities it lacks: a calm, responsible head who fortifies a back four that can often look fragile, a cannon of a long-range shot for when the space in front is congested and, most of all, a bit of extra bite and aggression after his time under Jose Mourinho. -- Miguel Delaney
Stats That Matter:
• 11 goals in 93 appearances for Spain
• Leads Real Madrid and is second in La Liga with 2,558 passes completed
• Second on Real Madrid and fifth in La Liga with 756 passes completed into the final third in 2011-12
• Has three goals in his past eight international games (against Venezuela, Italy and Czech Republic)
• Has won eight titles as a player. four with Liverpool, two with Real Madrid and two with Spain