Former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has defended his decision to sell Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid in the summer of 2009 despite club legend Steven Gerrard recently saying it was "stupid" to let him go. The Spanish boss, meanwhile, has once again claimed his relationship with the ex-Liverpool captain was good despite the midfielder saying there was a "frostiness" between the pair during their time together at Anfield.
Benitez lured Alonso to the Merseysiders in the summer of 2004 to form an impressive midfield at Anfield alongside Gerrard. But despite the crucial role the Spanish midfielder played in the 2005 Champions League final victory over AC Milan, the manager sold him in 2009 for around £30m ($45.5m).
Many questioned the decision at the time, while Gerrard recently reopened the debate in his new book, My Story, saying: "It was clear Alonso was royalty after our first training session together in August 2004, and Rafa Benitez, who had been so clever to buy him in the first place, was equally stupid to sell him to Real Madrid five years later. He was, by some distance, the best central midfielder I ever played alongside."
Benitez has admitted he already tried to sell Alonso the previous summer as, despite the midfielder wanted to stay, Liverpool needed the money to fund other moves, with him eventually signing Alberto Aquilani from Roma for around £20m to fill the gap.
"I didn't ended end on a source note with Xabi but when one is faced with responsibility, it's important to assume this position. I needed the money as team manager. You don't get much for selling a bad player," Benitez told Cadena Ser. "He wasn't happy about it. I was clear with him and his representative. Liverpool Football Club put him up for sale (in the summer of 2008). He had just had an excellent season and we sold him for decent money that helped us rebuild the team.
"As I was club manager, in England it's the financial director at the club who finalises the numbers but the coach is the person who knows the player's market value. The Xabi move worked out well for Liverpool and Madrid."
Meanwhile, Benitez has tried to play down the feud with Gerrard, claiming the LA Galaxy player is a "phenomenon" but just wants to sell his book with his recent accusations. "I understand that books need to be sold. Steve is a phenomenon. As a coach it's always good to have a good personal relationship with the players," he said. "I speak frequently with my captain and more so in England. I spoke with Steve every day. If he's had better relationships with other coaches then that is something out of my hands."