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Alonso: Guardiola wanted to sign me at Barcelona

15:41 GMT+3 17/04/2017
The former Real Madrid star nearly joined up with Pep Guardiola before they worked together at Bayern, only for another option to emerge at Barca.

Former Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso says he almost joined Barcelona before he made the move to the Spanish capital.

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Alonso, 35, left Premier League side Liverpool for Madrid in 2009, going on to win La Liga, the Champions League, Copa del Rey and Supercopa de Espana before linking up with Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich five years later.

But it could have been a lot different for Alonso - who is set to retire at the end of the season - had it not been for the emergence of fellow Spaniard Sergio Busquets at Barca.

"It happened not long before I left for Real Madrid," Alonso told El Pais. "Liverpool told me that they wanted to sell me, [manager at that time, Rafael] Benitez too, and Pep showed an interest in my situation.

"He wanted to sign me because, as he told Rafa, I was the type of player who would fit his [playing] model. But he had doubts because Busquets had just come through and had the makings of a tremendous player.

"Guardiola chose him, and he wasn't proved wrong."

The midfielder surprisingly chose to leave the Bernabeu after winning the Champions League, prompting speculation he was pushed out.

But the experienced midfielder has nothing but fond memories of his time in the Spanish capital as he prepares to return to his former hunting ground on Tuesday, when Bayern will look to overturn a 2-1 defeat from the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie.

"It was not an escape. I did not flee from anything," Alonso added.

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"It was not like I was uncomfortable at Madrid. I had been at the club for five years, won the Champions League and had to make a decision whether I wanted to try another country or retire at Madrid, where I was very happy.

"The final decision went very quick. Pep [Guardiola] really wanted me at Bayern and I took a very difficult decision by leaving Madrid on a voluntary basis.

"A lot has been said and written about my departure, but the truth is quite simple. I wanted to test myself in another country before retiring.

"You have to know when to say goodbye. I always try to leave at the right time."

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Alonso has made 23 Bundesliga appearances this season as defending champions Bayern sit eight points clear atop the table.

He has also featured in six Champions League fixtures ahead of the Champions League quarter-final second leg against his former side.