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The Spain international claims he has grown as a player and a person under the Portuguese, who he says has a "good working relationship" with Iker Casillas

Xabi Alonso has defended coach Jose Mourinho, though he admits he is less than happy with Real Madrid's form this season.

The Spanish champions have all but surrendered their domestic crown to Barcelona, while they face a tough challenge in progressing to the Champions League quarter-finals following their 1-1 draw with Manchester United in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

The club have also been subject to continuing rumours of dressing-room disharmony, particularly since Mourinho's shock decision to drop captain Iker Casillas at the end of last year, but Alonso has played down any notion of a spat between the pair and insists he remains one of the best coaches in the game today.

In an interview with Vanity Fair magazine, the Spain international said: "[Mourinho and Casillas] maintain a good working relationship as coach and player, but they don't have to go out for a beer.

"As a coach he is very, very good. One of the best in the world. He has made me grow personally and professionally.

"He is excellent at empathising with players. Take it from me, first hand."

The former Liverpool man then admitted he was unhappy with the club's results so far this season and stressed the need for los Blancos to remain united through both good and bad times. 

"I hear everything and see the differences between what is real and what is published. And we cannot be denying things all the time. We are and must be a team, we have to be together, because it is a team sport.

"When the results are good everything seems prettier; when things go bad, it seems like all conflicts, personal disputes and problems arise. But it is true that this year we are not happy because we have lost more often than usual."

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