Xabi Alonso was today due to have his medical at the Bernabeu before becoming Real Madrid’s latest ’galactico’.
The 27-year-old midfielder flew to the Spanish capital last night after a fee, believed to be £30m, was agreed between Liverpool and Real Madrid to end the summer’s longest transfer saga.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez flew with his squad to Norway for tonight’s friendly with Lyn Oslo, already working on signing a replacement.
Now Benitez has the cash to spend on his own squad, with one of the hold-ups this week being his insistence on the first instalment of the Alonso fee being paid immediately.
He is believed to want to close a deal to bring in midfielder Alberto Aquilani as Alonso’s replacement. Cash-strapped Roma are willing to sell for around £15m and the player is happy with a five-year contract worth around €4m a year.
It is believed that the player has agreed personal terms already, but negotiations could not be completed until Alonso was sold.
Benitez is also known to be considering moves for either of Valencia pair David Silva and David Villa. But that could well push his budget to the limits unless he can off-load the likes of Andriy Voronin.
Last night Liverpool issued a curt statement which brought to an end Alonso’s five years on Merseyside.
It read: “Liverpool Football Club this evening confirmed they had reached agreement for the sale of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid, subject only to a medical. The terms of the deal will remain confidential and undisclosed.”
But although Liverpool will not reveal the details of the deal, privately sources were maintaining that Benitez had got his own way over the fee.
It is believed that Madrid made another attempt to end the deadlock today with an offer of £30m that will rise to £34m depending on Alonso’s success over the first two years of a five-year contract.
Alonso had trained with his Liverpool colleagues yesterday afternoon at the club’s Melwood complex.
But as the Liverpool party headed for John Lennon airport and a charter flight to Norway, Alonso was heading back to Spain.
Alonso will join his former Liverpool team-mates Alvaro Arbeloa – who moved to Real last week for €3.5m – and goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek at Real.
Alonso and Dudek were part of the famous night in Istanbul when Liverpool lifted the European Cup after a penalty shoot-out victory over AC Milan in 2005.
Now, of the 18 players on the team sheet in Istanbul that night, only Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher are still with the club.
Alonso is believed to have told his manager on the final day of last season that he wanted to return to Spain.
From that point on, Madrid waged a persistent war to sign the player as they assembled a new squad under president Florentino Perez.
With the Alonso deal, Perez will have spent around £220m in two months on Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Raul Albiol, Esteban Granero, Arbeloa, Alvaro Negredo and Karim Benzema.
That haul is Madrid’s response to Barcelona’s historic treble of Champions League, La Liga and Spanish Cup.
But although Perez did not consider Alonso to be a player who ’will sell shirts’, the Spain international has been almost as difficult to prise away from his club as Ronaldo.