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Xabi Alonso: Liverpool-Real to be “such a special game”

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Xabi Alonso is part of a unique brand of footballer to have played with both Liverpool and Real Madrid.

The retired 36-year-old spent five seasons with each team, winning a UEFA Champions League with both, and now will watch his alma maters tangle for a UCL crown on Saturday.

[ MORE: Zidane praises Ronaldo ]

Alonso said he’s just rooting for “an unbelievable game to watch,” and seems like he’ll be happy either way.

“I have feelings for both clubs. I was lucky enough to win this trophy with both clubs so for me it’s difficult to pick one and I will be happy whatever happens, that’s for sure. For Liverpool, for Madrid [they are in] different circumstances, but it’s such a special game.”

The Spanish legend also seemed a bit torn as to whether Real’s experience or Liverpool’s newbie excitement could tilt the scales:

“For the Real Madrid guys, it’s the opposite. They have played so many finals in the last few years, so they can manage the situation better. Later it’s just 90 minutes for both sides, whatever happens. But the build-up is different.

“For sure it’s good to have that experience. But it’s good as well to have that excitement, that hunger, but you need to control as well the over-relaxation and the over-motivation.

“You need to find the right point of activation for the game. That’s not difficult because you know what it means to play in a Champions League final and you don’t have many chances during your whole career, and that’s one of the key psychological sides of this game. And the emotional side is almost as good as the football side.”

Maybe it’s simply playing both sides of the fence, and there’s no shame in that, but it does seem a hard match to choose. Both have been wildly inconsistent in league play as well as the group stage, but have been quite good in the knockout rounds.

It’s hard to pick against Real, but that’s why they play the games.

Xabi Alonso denies Spanish accusations of tax fraud

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The list of players pursued by Spanish authorities crying tax fraud is starting to resemble a pretty good team,

Call it The Longest Yard: La Liga.

[ MORE: Alonso, Pedro support Morata ]

Xabi Alonso is being accused of not paying taxes on his image rights while a player at Real Madrid, joining Radamel Falcao, Neymar, Lionel Messi, Luka Modric, and Cristiano Ronaldo as World XI-caliber players who’ve faced legal troubles in Spain.

Jose Mourinho even had to travel to Spain earlier this season to face accusations from a Spanish court. Those found guilty have found punishment other than jail time.

Alonso denies any wrongdoing, according to Sky Sports:

Prosecutors say he defrauded the Spanish state of £1.75m between 2010 and 2012 and called for the same sentence to be applied to Alonso’s financial advisor Ivan Zaldua Azcuenaga and the administrator of consultancy shell company, Ignasi Maestre Casanova.

Xabi Alonso announces he will retire

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Xabi Alonso will say goodbye at the end of this season.

[ MORE: Wenger to listen to protests

The legendary Spanish midfielder, 35, announced Thursday that he’ll bring an end to his glittering career at the conclusion of the 2016-17 campaign with Bayern Munich.

Capped 114 times for Spain, the fifth-most appearances for the nation, Alonso won the 2010 World Cup and the European Championships in 2008 and 2012 with Spain.

He began his club career at Real Sociedad before moving to Liverpool where he won the UEFA Champions League and FA Cup. He then switched to Real Madrid where he won a La Liga title, Copa del Rey and another UCL trophy, before spending the past three seasons at Bayern Munich where he’s won two-straight Bundesliga titles and is on his way to another, plus has a German Cup to his name.

In a statement he admitted the decision was tough but this was the right time to move on.

“It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I believe it’s the right time. I always thought it would be better to quit sooner rather than later. I still feel good, but I believe this is the right moment. I wanted to end my career still at the highest level, and Bayern is the highest level. I’m incredibly proud and happy to play for FC Bayern and to be a part of this family.”

Alonso will be remembered for his silky passing, set pieces and incredible composure in the holding midfield role — plus a few outrageous long-range goals in the Premier League — as the Spaniard shone for Liverpool before going on to be influential at both Real Madrid and Bayern.

His legacy will live on for many years and he’s bowing out on top.

Respect, Xabi.

Bayern takes control of Bundesliga with win over Leipzig

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Bayern Munich has snatched the top of the table from RB Leipzig just before Christmas with a comprehensive 3-0 win at Allianz Arena.

In the final match before the holiday break, Leipzig saw its table lead officially evaporate, going down a man after just 30 minutes after pulling down Philipp Lahm from behind. A man down and without their in-form creative force on the field, Leipzig had little to offer, finishing with just two shots on target, and none after Forsberg was given an early shower.

On the other side, the Bavarians showed their dominance throughout, going 2-0 up after just 25 minutes on its first two shots on target of the game via Thiago Alcantara and Xabi Alonso, and they capped it off just moments after halftime ended as Robert Lewandowski bagged one from the spot to send Bayern through.

It almost looked too easy at times for Bayern – obviously a bad sign for Leipzig – especially on the second goal as the Bayern players looked at ease passing through the box before Alonso eventually finished calmly from a relatively tight angle.

The win sent Bayern three points clear at the top, although they were already in first via goal difference before the match. It doesn’t get any easier for Leipzig in what now becomes a clear make-or-break stretch for their title hopes. They’re forced to sit on this loss all the way until January 21st when they take on 4th placed Eintract Frankfurt, 5th placed Hoffenheim, and 6th placed Dortmund all in a row. Bayern, meanwhile, doesn’t face a top-six team again until February 18th when they take on Hertha Berlin.

PHOTO: Bayern to wear recycled plastic kit on Saturday

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Bayern Munich’s kit is going to be garbage, literally.

The Bavarians will be wearing home shirts made from recycled plastic gathered from the water outside the Maldives when they face Hoffenheim at the Allianz Arena at 10:30 a.m. ET on Saturday.

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“I’m a child of the beaches of Spain, so I’m really happy to wear a shirt entirely made of recycled ocean waste,” Xabi Alonso toldFCBayern.com. “It’s a great opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of protecting the oceans.”

Pretty cool idea, for sure.

Bayern leads the Bundesliga table by two points over RB Leipzig and four over third-place Hoffenheim.