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Beard Of The Day – April 20th: Xabi Alonso

I may not get another chance to nominate him, given the Hawks’ situation and his impending retirement, so I will take the opportunity to have my favorite footballer ever given the honor.

Alonso was one of the most elegant midfielders to grace European football the past couple decades. His career started at his hometown Real Sociedad, but he didn’t really land on most people’s radar until he moved to Liverpool in 2004. Before the league caught on to his simply pornographic passing abilities, and started planning specifically for it, watching him spray 60-yard balls directly to the feet of his teammates was like watching Aaron Rodgers when he actually gets time. Except Alonso was doing it with his feet.

He would be the heartbeat of the ’05 Champions League winning Liverpool team, as well as the one that won the FA Cup the following year and the one that nearly, nearly took the Premier League in ’09, while Steven Gerrard got all the plaudits. He was in the middle of both Spain’s 2010 World Cup winners and their repeat 2012 European Championship winner. He would capture another European Cup medal with Madrid in ’14, before moving to Munich to be the engine for three Bundesliga title winning teams in a row.

Like any great player in any sport, it always looked like Alonso just had more time than anyone else, even though he was in the packed midfield. Gerrard ran around like a psychotic, but Alonso got where he needed in his own time. And quite simply, I haven’t seen a better passer outside of Barcelona in all my years following the sport. Alonso kept every team he was in ticking, always picking the right pass, be it five yards or forty. His equalizer in Istanbul caused me to lift a total stranger over my head at A.J. Hudson’s, and I’m fairly sure the dude outweighed me by 30 pounds. There wasn’t any angle he couldn’t see, or spot he couldn’t pick. And occasionally, he would come up with shit like this:

He will retire in May, and take his fantastic red beard with him. And I’ll miss him terribly. Y.N.W.A, Xabi.