Xabi Alonso at Fuera de Serie
The announcement of his contract renewal would be the best “regalo de Reyes” for us madridistas, no? Anyway, Xabi Alonso was recently interviewed by El Mundo’s revamped Magazine, Fuera de Serie. Here it is, plus pictures and a guide to Xabi Alonso style.
Those who know about football agree: Xabi Alonso is the player who brings balance to teams. He’s also a man with clear ideas and an icon of style and elegance on and off the field.
Receiving a long and unquestionable ovation in the Bernabéu is, probably, one of the biggest morale boosters a Real Madrid player could receive, especially if it’s also a desperate attempt to retain a crucial piece of the team. On the night of Dec. 18, the fans seemed to be saying to Xabi Alonso, “don’t leave my love, stay with me.” It’s obvious, as Ancelotti said after this display of love, that Alonso is “very good.” It’s not a surprise that the chaotic Madrid from the beginning of the season began to find itself after the midfielder returned to direct the play following his recovery from injuries. If there’s anything that personifies Xabi, it’s balance.
That night, as half of Spain watched the final of La Voz and the other half the final of Top Chef, he arrived at his home in the Madrid neighborhood of Salamanca feeling very loved. His three children, Jon, Ane and Emma, who are five, three and less than one month old, respectively, were already sleeping. He had difficulties falling asleep, as he usually does after games.
Our meeting with the midfielder took place the next morning at a flat near his home, following the training session in Valdebebas. After parking his Audi S7, he rang the bell. Waiting for him was a team of 10: journalist, photographer, camera person, stylist, assistants and even the cleaning woman. He was wearing an Alexander McQueen jumper that matched his red beard, jeans and suede shoes. He greeted everyone who was present before beginning the photo shoot. He’s a natural now at posing, after so many campaigns with Emidio Tucci. It’s easy to work with him. However, he does apologize a bit timidly, “smiling for photos is a bit difficult for me.”
You arrived at Real Madrid on Aug. 4, 2009. Tell us about your time with the club.
Playing there is very intense, for good and for bad. You’re always in the public eye. The pressure, the demands and the responsibility are much more. You have to be aware of that to measure up to the standard required and make a good impression in the Bernabéu. Fortunately, I’ve always felt very loved by the club and by the fans.
This answer came near the end of the interview, after a lot of encouragement. The objective was not to ask him directly about his Hamletian dilemma.
On Dec. 20, he couldn’t attend the Feria de Santo Tomás with his lifelong friends Triki, Chufo, Balán and the rest, because he had a game in Valencia. He couldn’t wear the typical costume and the txapela, and he couldn’t eat the typical chistorra and sidra. He explains, “but during those days, we have another dinner in our gastronomic society. One serves as the chef, another as the sous-chef. I’m the supplier, the one in charge of bringing the meat or wine.”
I ask him if it’s easy to combine his public and private lives. He responds, “as soon as I leave Valdebebas, I stop being Xabi Alonso and I become regular citizen Xabi or Bone (which comes from Xabo → Xabone → Bone), which is what my friends call me. It sounds like a cliché, but I’m a normal citizen. I like to enjoy the city I live in, to enjoy what Madrid has to offer, the life it has. There’s not much to say about this, because everyone knows what it’s like.”
After a few months of living in La Finca, he and his wife Nagore decided to move to the central neighborhood of Salamanca. Alonso was born in Tolosa, where his father Periko is from, and grew up between San Sebastián and Orendain, the town of his mother Isabel Olano. Like his two brothers Mikel and Jon, he breathed football from the time he was born. But he could have become an actor. He says, “one day while I was playing on La Concha with some friends, casting agents from Julio Medem’s Vacas approached me. They were looking for a kid about 11 years old with a Basque face to play the role of “El Peru.” We ran to tell my mother, but she told them to find someone else. At home, she was always making sure we did our homework, that we were going down the right path.” It was also his mother who punished him by not letting him play football when he failed his Spanish language class in school until he passed. Now, she gives him advice about media exposure: “sometimes, she tells me, ‘Xabi, aren’t you a bit tired of all this already?’ And I think she might be right.”
What values did your parents instill in you?
Respect and honesty, and also to never believe you are more than what you actually are, nor to take yourself too seriously.
Xabi Alonso doesn’t take seriously his reputation as a style icon. He says, “if you become that without trying, perfect. If it’s the opposite, then people will notice the imposture, and that may create a bit of rejection.” He’s not the typical footballer who is attached to the Play Station. He knows that “Thyssen” isn’t the name of a fashionable club, and at the age of 32, he oozes sex appeal, with luxury brands fighting over him (he advertises Emidio Tucci, Adidas and Audemars Piguet). He announced the birth of daughter Emma via Instagram, he likes indie bands (Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys, Phoenix), he recommends series such as Mad Men, Dexter or Homeland on Twitter… and if that’s not enough, one of his identifying marks, his beard, inspires passionate metaphors. The journalist and writer Manuel Jabois wrote, “the fields of Faulkner grow in his red beard.”
Mr. Alonso, do you plan on dyeing your beard platinum blonde, like Sergio Ramos did with his hair? [No, why remind us of that sad episode?]
No, I’m sure of that, jaja. Neither my hair nor the beard. I’m also not planning on shaving it off.
Alonso falls in the category “übersexual,” which means a manly and elegant man who knows how to take care of himself but is not macho or narcissistic. He says, “I do pay attention to my appearance, but without obsessing over or focusing on what I wear. I do try to be very observant, I focus on people with a certain class and I try to incorporate elements that I like into my own personal style.” He adds, “watches are my weakness. They reveal the personality of a man. I don’t wear earrings or necklaces, the only piece of jewelry I wear is this watch,” which is an Audemars Piguet in pink gold.
He also likes cars. And as a fan of the coolest series on television, he’s attracted to the charisma of characters such as James Soprano (The Sopranos), Stringer Bell (The Wire) or Don Draper (Mad Men). They are men with imperfections and weaknesses. He says, “I really like Tony Soprano. He was capable of leading the mafia but incapable of managing his own family.” He jokes, “that happens to all of us; after a game I have to face three more beasts!”
When you played with Antiguoko, did you ever dream of becoming a football star?
It was something that I saw as so far-fetched and difficult that I never made it an objective. When I was 17, I went from Antiguoko to Real Sociedad’s second team. That allowed me to live a normal life, like all of my friends. I never imagined that I would play in Madrid or be a world champion.
At the age of 22, he took a big leap. After three seasons in the first division, he went from Real Sociedad to Liverpool. He tried to continue his business studies, but the arrival of his first child and the trips for Champions League games prevented him from doing so. He says, “Liverpool changed my life. In addition to gaining access to the football elite, I also had to learn to live far from my family, to lead a more independent life. It made me a man.”
In this player is the concurrence of two fundamental characteristics: a pure playing style and the ability to integrate to different cities, clubs and teams. I ask him where he sees himself at the age of 35 and he says, “little by little, one begins visualizing what he can do. To start, I would like to take a sabbatical for my family and for myself. Sometimes I think that I can continue working in football, perhaps as a coach, and other times I think I want to completely disconnect. I haven’t ruled out starting a business, but I have to prepare myself well for that.”
How does your letter to the Three Kings begin?
What I am asking for is to win titles with Madrid. That’s what comes to mind. And the World Cup, that wouldn’t be bad either.
There’s also a video, which refers to Xabi as “Xavi Alonso” (face palm).
Define yourself as a player (virtues and defects).
Basically, I believe I’m a classic midfielder, the kind that has been around forever, with the virtues that you need to have, such as the ability to concentrate on the play, to get involved, to be aware of the others and what’s happening around you. I always try and think about what is best for the team in each moment. You need to have this, and the desire to compete, to play at the highest level. I like to pass the ball and make things easier for my teammates so that they will be more comfortable. Obviously, I’m not the fastest player in the league, but anyway, this position doesn’t really require speed.
How do you view elegance?
Well, that’s complicated, no? I don’t take myself too seriously, I believe everyone has their own style, their own way of being, and that shows in the way one acts and what they put on. There are some who are more daring, like some of my teammates, for example. I try to be very observant of those whom I believe have a certain class.
The article also includes a page of Xabi’s favorite items. These include a Hackett hat that Xabi uses to get around Madrid incognito; Acqua di Parma cologne; Dennis Lehane’s Live by Night, one of his favorite books; the Audi S7 Sportback; Garrett Leight “Harding Sun” sunglasses; Tod’s Gommino driving shoes; Emidio Tucci clothes, including his favorite item, a double-breasted, speckled gray coat; Audemars Piguet watches – his model is the 41 mm, pink gold Royal Oak selfwinding watch with a black alligator strap; The Sopranos TV series; and the timeless Mulberry Clipper travel bag in oak natural leather, which has two short handles and a detachable strap.
There’s also this recent interview, where Xabi talks about his style.
Can you tell us what four essential items are in your closet?
A trench coat, a black suit, v-neck shirts and jeans.
What is your favorite item of clothing? Are there any that you would find difficult to part with?
I have a special affection for a military-style jacket that I bought in London during my first visit to the city. It brings back good memories and it would be difficult for me to part with it.
Do you have any style icons who inspire you when it comes time to get dressed? Who are your style references?
I’m very observant and I like to look at how people are, whether it’s on the street, in a store or in a bar. I get many ideas from that, and later on I incorporate them into my looks. But I don’t have any concrete style reference or icon.
How would you describe your style?
I don’t think I have a defined style. What I do have are clear ideas about what I like and what I don’t like.
When it comes time to choose, do you follow your instincts or do you need advice from someone else?
I usually go with my personal instincts and if anyone gives me advice, it’s my wife Nagore, who has a good eye and knows about this kind of thing.
Do you like to go shopping?
I usually make spontaneous purchases. You know, when something catches your eye as you pass by. The truth is that I don’t usually go shopping, unless it’s in search of something concrete that I need.
Are there any style rules that you follow to the letter?
In general, I trust my instincts and my personal tastes, for what I like and what I don’t like, for what I believe will look good on me, but there are no rules that I follow to the letter.
What will you never wear?
There are many things and styles that I would never wear! For example, Capri pants, sleeveless shirts or short-sleeved (collared and button-down) shirts. [He’s basically describing Sergio Ramos’ wardrobe, no?]