Marcos Alonso has enjoyed a return to the fold and a return to left wing-back since Thomas Tuchel’s arrival, displaying his worth to the team with a number of assured performances and individual contributions.
It was Alonso’s pass that led to our opener against Everton on Monday and it was his cross that caused Atletico Madrid a moment of panic ending with Olivier Giroud’s spectacular winner. In his first game back after a four-month absence, it was Alonso’s spectacular volley that lit up the win over Burnley.
The 30-year-old is thriving again and he is the subject of our latest interview feature in our series asking players 10 questions. Alonso speaks openly about his career so far, that difficult period when he was not involved, paternal advice and, first, his position on the pitch…
Marcos, you’re at left wing-back once again. Are there any differences playing that position under Thomas Tuchel compared to Antonio Conte?
In a global view it’s the same, and then there are some small details that are a bit different. I have different players around me now, and it’s a little bit different what the manager wants from us. Now like the Conte days we are defending well, we are trying to control games but when it’s time to suffer the team is doing well.
Do you prefer playing wing-back to full-back?
With Sarri I played in a four at the back and was involved in the most goals in my Chelsea time I think. I don’t think it’s about the system. I am enjoying playing. That’s the most important thing, more than the position. I enjoy playing both.
Left wing-back is more offensive, maybe a bit less responsibility at the back, and it’s more fun, let’s say, but the most important thing is to help the team with performances and results. That’s my main target and what I work for in training: the good of the team and getting results.
The time you were out of the team coincided with a really grim period away from football, going into lockdowns and so on. What was your mind like during that time?
It was tough. The pandemic is tough for everyone. You see a lot of people dying, a lot of friends and close family suffering a bit from the virus. It’s difficult. If you add to that difficult times at work, it’s even more difficult, but you have to continue with life outside the pitch.
From my experience the only way to turn things around is to work hard and be ready for the time the opportunity comes. Sometimes this happens in the same team, sometimes maybe you go somewhere else and you have to be ready anyway. I have been training very hard, even harder than usual, and trying to keep my mind on my fitness levels and making sure I was ready when the time came.
You mention your family; has it been hard keeping in contact with them in Spain?
It’s tough in terms of travelling. I didn’t get the chance to see them as much as other years. I am trying to keep in touch with Facetime calls. I am looking forward to everything getting back to normal and being able to see them more often, to see them at the Bridge when we play. To see the fans back at the Bridge, we are getting closer, and personally I cannot wait to enjoy those crowds and the support from the people.
Your Dad gave an interview recently saying you had learned a lesson from his career when it came to not being selected. He said he didn’t react well!
I didn’t see anything, but from what you are saying I believe it was him! I’m lucky to have his experience. In everyone’s career in football you have good times and bad times, even if you are Messi or Ronaldo, the best players ever.
A manager that doesn’t like you is absolutely normal, and it’s about the way you take it. My dad told me if it were him in his times, his father, my grandfather, would say ‘tell the manager where to go, I will go to the owner and say I’m leaving!’. My dad always tells me he wasn’t that lucky in terms of the advice from my grandfather!
He took the good things. He has always taught me to work hard and be ready in tough times. I am a professional and I have to be ready and focused.
Sticking with the Spain theme, there seems to be a perception La Liga isn’t as strong as usual this season. Do you agree with that?
It’s a weird season. That’s the main reason. We are playing every three days, no fans, it’s a bit weird. If you look at the top teams in Spain they have great squads, great players. From the last five or 10 years how many Champions League finalists have there been? It cannot change that quickly from a year to another.
What are you expecting from the second leg against Atletico Madrid next week? They have to score to stay in the tie…
When I saw their line-up for the first game, I said they are going to go offensive. Then, the way they play and the way we play, we forced them to defend a bit, and we got control of possession. It became difficult for them.
For the second game they need to go for the game and I’m sure it will be even tougher than the other day. We cannot be overconfident. It’s very important to have in mind it’s just half of the job done.
You’ve played in three of the great footballing countries. Can you compare Spain, Italy and England?
It’s been important for me to grow and to be the man I am today. I have learned the difference between these countries, these cultures, these types of football.
I have played different styles in each team, too. At the beginning I was playing for Real Madrid, offensive football, winning the league, enjoying possession. Then I went to Bolton and it was time to suffer, to learn to defend, to improve tactically.
That was also something I really learned in Italy, where it was more competitive football, more positional. My first six months in Italy were tough. I went to a team where they had two internationals in my position. It was difficult to get game-time. Also, when you change country and go to a new place with a new team, it takes a little bit of time to settle.
I had the chance to go to Sunderland and help them for six months. It was great proof to show everyone I could do well in the Premier League, and also to keep improving as a player and be ready for the next year at Fiorentina. I started playing left wing-back there. That was also important to get to know another role.
It’s good to learn from different styles and different cultures. It helped me grow on and off the pitch.
And what about living in those different countries?
The places and the lifestyle are very different, but I don’t have any complaints. People sometimes don’t get used to the weather in England, to the differences in the culture between southern European countries like Spain and Italy, and here in England, but to be honest I have enjoyed the good things of every place. I have suffered maybe a little the weather in the North and North-West of England, but they were great times everywhere I’ve been, great experiences.
I have taken the good things, everything I learned, and all the football experiences and friends and people I met. I think if I had to go back I would do the same. It’s been a good career and a good journey.