Title: El Mister
Character: Xabi Alonso
Summary: Xabi Alonso looks back on his (crazy weird) journey to become manager of Real Madrid.
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- A huge warning about this fic: there is so much narration here and very little dialogue but please, stay with me, kk?
- Warning #2: this is filled with clichés hahaha.
- A clear up on Zidane: he was voted as president in June 2028 in this verse and appointed Raul Gonzalez as his Director of Football in the same year. (I wasn’t planning on writing a fic regarding their election and appointment)
- For a continuity clear up from “The Godfather”, it is assumed that Leo does not know any Castilla boys as Atletico B (where he played 2 seasons before his transfer to Madrid) plays in Segunda Division B while Castilla plays in Segunda Division. Real Madrid C plays in the Segunda Division B. It assumed that both teams were promoted at the end of the 2012 season (let’s all pray they do for real, ok? ^_^).
- Edit: At the end of the game on 2012.05.27, Real Madrid Castilla just got promoted to the Segunda Division. HALA MADRID!!!
He didn’t think this day would come.
To be perfectly honest, he still couldn’t believe everything that happened last season.
Xabi Alonso had been pulled out of coaching one of the youth teams of Real Sociedad to become the assistant manager to Real Madrid’s first team in the 2027-2028 season, as per request of the manager who wanted a former player on his staff. That year, Madrid had a decent run, but it was not particularly spectacular. They were eliminated in the Champion’s League after the round of 16. They were league leaders only after a series of injuries left the Barcelona squad crippled almost half the season leading Barca to settle in 4th place. Valencia, Deportivo La Coruña, Athletic Bilbao and many other squads seemed to be in a rut too. Statistically speaking, it was Malaga who emerged as a formidable opponent to Madrid that season, as they were able to amass a decent number of points and finish as runners up. And while everyone in Madrid was ecstatic over their 39th league trophy, Xabi knew that their victory wasn’t as sweet as it should have been.
He expected his second season to be better, only it got worse. Their manager wasn’t in a good condition and the pressures of the job were finally taking a toll on his health. With an unfit coach on their side, the team was drawing Liga matches. Xabi found himself being manager for all of their Copa del Rey matches and supervising almost all of their practices. While he always had the support of the entire team, the mister had not. The players became increasingly discouraged about how they were treated by the coach and the rest of the training staff, especially when they lost or drew games. Maybe it’s because of his health, Xabi thinks. Being sick makes you a bit cranky.
Madrid’s bad form was highlighted during the first Clasico of the season. Barcelona, having fully recovered from their injuries last season and acquiring several key players in the summer, thrashed them 7-2 at the Camp Nou. This was only the second time this score happened in the history of El Clasico, the first being in 1950. It was an embarrassing match to say the least, with Luca, their goal keeper, being sent off in the closing minutes of the first half for challenging Barcelona’s striker.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, things took a turn for the worse in December when they were fell to the Europa League after losing 3 matches in the group stage despite winning the other 3. The penultimate blow however, came just before Christmas when their manager suffered a heart attack and passed away leaving Xabi to handle the team alone.
For the first time in his life, Xabi Alonso doubted himself. He wasn’t sure if he was experienced enough to carry the entire team until the end. While he was experienced as a player, it was definitely different as a manager. Sometime he wished he could just put on his boots and replace some of the underperforming players on the pitch to teach them a lesson. It was frustrating, discouraging and disheartening. Xabi needed someone, at least until the end of the season, to help him.
The first person Xabi talked to was the team captain. He was an old friend and team mate and Xabi felt most comfortable with him.
Seventeen seasons ago, Raphael Varane came to the club from Lens. He was only 18 then, yet he was already a mature player on the pitch and off it, despite the constant teasing from his much older team mates. This was what endeared Xabi to him. While Varane stuck with fellow Frenchmen Karim Benzema and Lassana Diarra in his first season, Xabi had kept an eye on him. By the time Xabi moved back to Real Sociedad, Varane was already a mainstay in the back four. After that, he became unexpendable.
Varane, upon consultation with vice-captain Morata, told him to talk to the new President about it and, if it was possible, do something about their current squad. Their starting 11 were overplayed. Their bench was not particularly strong, especially since both Jorge Gonzalez and Aitor Gutierrez were hampered with injuries for most of the first half of the season and they had no proper right back. It was either Varane or Christian Cannavaro who filled that position while they would call up someone from Castilla.
The entire Christmas break was spent talking with the administration. The president backed Xabi to be interim manager himself. However, the other board members did not want to risk not being able to qualify for a Champions League berth, not with the club holding a record 21 consecutive seasons of qualifying. It was a big risk having Xabi as manager as he had not proven his ability anywhere other than Real Sociedad’s Juvenil team.
It took them days of constant meetings and strategizing until both Xabi and the board were able to come up with a plan and a suitable manager. Xabi agreed to be deputy for the 2nd half of the season to Jose Mourinho. Xabi didn’t agree to anyone less.
Mourinho was actually in the process of talks with the Portuguese Football Federation to renegotiate his contract with the national team in preparation for the 2030 World Cup. But talks were going nowhere and the FPF was looking like they were ready to let him go despite Portugal winning Euro 28 with him. Because of that, Zidane and the Director of Football, Raul Gonzalez, tried to talk to him about coaching Madrid for the second time. Initially, Mourinho did not accept but after the FPF finally released him from his national team duties formally, and hearing that his deputy was to be Xabi Alonso, he agreed to manage the team for half a season.
Most of the team was not expecting what Mourinho would demand. If Xabi was hard on the players as an assistant manager, Mourinho was even harder. Only 3 people knew and were prepared for Mourinho’s style: Varane, Morata and Enzo. As a result, a few players asked to be released during the January transfer window.
It was Mourinho’s suggestion to promote Castilla players to the first team to replace the vacancies. However since it was mid-season, it was not a good idea to bring a handful of them up to the first team especially since Castilla was doing well defending its #1 position in the Segunda Division. While most people would think they didn’t need to be champions of the Spanish second division as they would never ascend to the first, the players thought otherwise. The Castilla boys, unlike their seniors, had an impressive half season, drawing two games and winning the rest. It was then decided that Jontxu Alonso and Elyaz Zidane would officially be promoted to the first team while a handful others would be promoted at the end of the season, as long as they kept up their great run.
Promoting Jon and Elyaz did not come as a shock to any of the players both in Castilla and in the first team. They were featured heavily during the first half of the season, Jon in the midfield with Rani Khedira in place of Aitor and Jorge (very much reminiscent of his father and Rani’s brother’s partnership in the midfield 16 years ago), and Elyaz playing in defense usually with Christian while Varane covered right back. The only consequence of the promotions was that Elyaz had to relinquish his captain’s armband to his deputy, Oliver de la Red.
Castilla of course had the best season, in which they emerged as winners of the Segunda Division. Real Madrid C also emerged as winners of their group in the Segunda Division B and although they knew they wouldn’t get promoted to the Segunda Division regardless, they won their promotion matches. Castilla would not be suffering the loss of their players to the first team with the promotion of several RMC players to Castilla based on their performances. The cantera was showing its strength this season.
Under Mourinho, the team turned around their 6th position in La Liga to end in 3rd place, enough to secure Champions League group stage qualification. They also won the Europa League in style for the 5th time in their history.
Xabi’s proudest moment as coach was when Varane lifted the Copa del Rey at San Mames at the end of the season. Mourinho, very much pleased with how Xabi strategized for the Copa del Rey during the first half of the season, let him hold reign over the continuing cup matches. Xabi, eager for recognition, and considering the games as his managerial “auditions”, made use of the opportunity and narrowly escaped a defensively strong Atletico Madrid team in the semi-finals (1-0, 0-1, 4-3 on penalties) to meet the formidable Barcelona team who thrashed them earlier that year in the finals. But reaching the final was not the end of all that was sweet. Real Madrid won 1-0 at the closing minutes of extra time with the goal scored from their own half by Jon Alonso. Xabi was first off the bench to celebrate the goal with tears in his eyes. He didn’t even notice Mourinho celebrating by his side until he put his arm around him and whispered in his ear, “Jon will be a legend like his father, no?” Xabi couldn’t be any prouder.
At the end of the season of course, Mourinho’s time was up. The club knew it was a short time deal but they already had their replacement. Xabi was ready to take on the biggest challenge in his life.
Real Madrid called a press conference to announce their new manager. The president announced that Xabier Alonso Olano succeeded Jose Mourinho and signed a 4 year contract to handle the first team. When Mourinho was interviewed about Xabi succeeding him, he said, “He was my deputy on the field during my first term and he accepted to be my deputy on the bench for half a season despite him in the running to be the manager. I trusted him then and I still do now. I believe he is a Special One.”
Of course, the media erupted into a frenzy then. Jose Mourinho had just named the successor to his title as Special One.
Not that Xabi was intimidated. As much as he wanted to make a name for himself as manager, to be named as successor by the person whom he considered was the greatest manager in football was huge for him. He had big shoes to fill in, but he was determined to exceed expectations.
Mourinho didn’t leave without assisting him in choosing his squad. Probably for the first time in Real Madrid history, the President, Director of Football, the outgoing and incoming manager, and the four captains met to discuss the new signings of the club. It was definitely a first; especially getting the players involved with the decision, but it was necessary in order to overhaul the first team, give strength to Castilla and RMC and most importantly, restore faith in the Real Madrid academy.
Real Madrid signed a total of 8 players in the summer transfer window, 4 of them promotions, one a return. That brought the total of Real Madrid academy-bred players to 13, more than half the team. It was the biggest percentage of canteranos in Madrid’s recent history.
Xabi also had the personal task of picking his coaching team for the next season. As much as the Callejon twins impressed the club with their performance with Castilla, Xabi thought it was unnecessary to take them out and bring them to his team. No, he would call one of his former team mates for that. After all, he was enjoying his recent retirement with his brother in China, and kept on pestering all of the old gang with messages that he was getting a little bored without Spanish football.
And for his goal keeping coach, Xabi knew the perfect person. Years ago, during a night of drunken celebration for Madrid’s 10th Champions League win, this person declared that he would be Xabi’s goal keeping coach if he ever became manager for the first team. If it was a joke, Xabi would still try to get him on his training team, even if it was only for a short while.
2029 was going to be the start of a new era for Real Madrid.
Sneak peak into the next chapters:
I will post either a love story of one of the four captains, or the recruitment of Xabi’s assistant manager and goal keeping coach. Which one do you want?