Why Xabi Alonso Is Real Madrid's 2nd Most Important Player Behind Ronaldo

Samuel Marsden@@samuelmarsdenFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2013

PAMPLONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 12:  Xabi Alonso (R) of Real Madrid gets to the ball ahead of Juan Martinez 'Nino' of Osasuna during the La Liga match between Osasuna and Real Madrid at estadio Reino de Navarra on January 12, 2013 in Pamplona, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

"Do you know Cristiano Ronaldo?," Xabi Alonso revealed his son asked him in a recent interview with the Spanish edition of Vanity Fair.

Jon Alonso, who is only five, had come home from school having been told by his classmates that his dad knew Real Madrid's No. 7.

"I told him he was my teammate and that one day I would introduce them," answered the 31-year-old central midfielder.

His little boy had no idea of who his dad was, or how famous he is, to the point that when Alonso is approached for autographs he thinks that each and every person who asks for one is a friend of the Los Blancos midfielder.

With that in mind, he's probably not quite ready to learn just how important he is to the reigning La Liga champions.

But even if Jon isn't aware of that just yet, the rest of the football world are pretty sure in their assessment that the Spanish international is the second most important player at his club behind Ronaldo.

Sir Alex Ferguson was certainly aware of the threat the former Liverpool player carries when Madrid visited Old Trafford in the Champions League in March.

The way Jose Mourinho's team play makes Alonso and his depth of passing a key element in their system. Alongside Sami Khedira as one of two deep midfielders, Bone—as his friends back in San Sebastian affectionately know him—is the orchestrator for the majority of Real Madrid attacks.

The Manchester United manager acknowledged this and, as such, thrust a man-marking job upon him by Danny Welbeck—quite the compliment.

In La Liga this season Alonso has averaged 67.4 passes per game—a team high at Real Madrid. Sergio Ramos averages the second most (58.8) and after that there is not a player with over 50 passes per match.

The Champions League has kept Madrid's No. 14 even busier, yielded on average 72.6 passes per game, and in both competitions his average does not drop below an 82 percent completion rate (via WhoScored.com).

They're not futile passes either. During the season he has laid on five assists in creating 45 chances—that's more chances than Xavi Hernandez (32) and Andres Iniesta (37) have each created at Barcelona (via squawka.com).

His future is cause for concern, though. With his contract expiring in the summer of 2014, his dad—Periko Alonso, a former La Liga winner—spoke to MARCA about the fact that his son is in no rush to tie his future down in the Spanish capital:

"What he wants to do is to wait a bit to see what happens and how things go, and then, when the time is right, he'll make the appropriate decision. It's as simple as that - there's nothing else to it."

He'll only be 32 when his contract expires, and while there are others who can replace the pace and finishing of Angel Di Maria and Karim Benzema—who, on form, both suit Madrid's counterattacking game—there are less options when it comes to finding someone able to control a game and initiate attacks from the middle of the pitch quite like Xabi.