Alonso: Istanbul penalty in 2005 was my first as a professional – seriously!

Xabi Alonso

Xabi Alonso has told FourFourTwo that he had never taken a penalty in his professional career before stepping up in the 2005 Champions League Final.

The Reds famously fought back from 3-0 down against Milan to clinch their fifth European Cup on penalties, with Steven Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer and Alonso all scoring in the space of seven second-half minutes at Istanbul’s Ataturk Stadium.

Eyebrows were raised when the Spaniard, rather than captain Gerrard, picked up the ball, but he eventually found the net after his penalty had been saved by Dida.

Seriously, I had never taken one before. I look at pictures of me about to take the penalty and all I can see is my face wracked with tension and responsibility

Speaking exclusively in the July 2017 issue of FourFourTwo magazine, the recently-retired midfielder explains why manager Rafael Benitez had insisted that he would be taking Liverpool’s penalties – something he had never done since turning professional.

Portraits: Stefan Hobmaier

Rafa told me that if we won a penalty, I would take it, as Steven Gerrard had missed one against Spurs. What did I say? Nothing. I had to take it

“Seriously, I'd never taken one before,” he says. “I look at pictures of me about to take the penalty and all I can see is my face wracked with tension and responsibility. Were it not for that rebound, my Liverpool story might have been very different!

It was pretty stressful. Rafa told me before the final that if we won a penalty, I would take it, as Steven Gerrard had missed one against Spurs. What did I say? Nothing. I had to take it.

“At half-time it was the worst scenario. We had to score three goals against Alessandro Nesta, Paolo Maldini, Jaap Stam and Cafu. Some of the guys said, ‘We need to fight’. Others were saying, ‘How can we be so bad?’ The rest is history, as we made the most incredible comeback. Miracles can happen in football.”

NOW READ THIS

Read the full interview with Xabi Alonso in July 2017 issue of FourFourTwo magazine, which is guest-edited by Barcelona star Lionel Messi and features the new boss discussing a selection of his career highlights. Also this month, we look back at the La Masia academy team he played in – featuring Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique – and profile the other members of the 500-goal club, which Leo joined during the week that he edited the magazine. Plus, we talk Inter, Champions League glory and 'that’ World Cup goal against England with Javier Zanetti, visit Argentina on its 'weekend of derbies', hear how Ralf Rangnick led RB Leipzig towards the top of the Bundesliga, and learn what Brexit will mean for football. Order it now, and then subscribe!