Xabi Alonso claims a clash between Real Madrid and Manchester United is always "pure football" but has warned his teammates not to become obsessed with their quest for a first Champions League triumph since 2003.
Alonso, speaking to Spanish newspaper Marca after Real beat Barcelona 3-1 to advance to the final of the Copa Del Rey this week, also claimed Jose Mourinho is "a leader" and a world-class coach.
Addressing the second leg of his team's round-of-16 tie against United at Old Trafford, Alonso said: "From the point of view of the aficionados, and given the history of both clubs, Manchester United-Real Madrid is pure football.
"La Decima [Real's 10th European Cup] cannot become an obsession, because this doesn't help you, but yes it is an important objective. We know that it has been years since Real Madrid won their last European title. But it isn't easy to win this competition because we are confronted by the best teams in Europe."
Turning to Mourinho, who has received constant abuse from the Madrid supporters and is widely tipped for a summer departure, Alonso said: "His capacity to empathise with his players surprises me, because this is something that is difficult to get. When you see how he supports a group and believes in ideas... this is what it is to be a leader.
"For me, he is one of the best in the world."
Real have often been criticised in the Spanish press for their direct style of play, which many believe suffers in comparison with the football purveyed by fierce rivals Barcelona. In response, Alonso said:
"Our style is not tiki-taca. Our objective is clear: the opposing goal. With Madrid we exchange passes very rapidly... our football is more than going round and round with the ball until we can create a goal-scoring opportunity."