Media playback is not supported on this device It was a dream come true – Xabi Alonso
Xabi Alonso says returning to his childhood club Atletico Madrid felt like coming home when the Spaniard announced his decision to leave Bayern Munich this summer.
Inaki Williams, the diminutive winger who is also returning to Spain, said he became a fan of Barcelona after leaving Valencia to join Real Betis in 2005.
After watching Alvarez play for Real Madrid as a child, Williams said he would “never forget” playing alongside him for five years at Atletico.
“It was one of the hardest decisions in my career,” Alonso said.
“Atletico was a lot like Bayern, with a strong academy and passionate fans. Both clubs are coached by former players with huge experience.”
Alonso signed for Bayern in 2010 and won two European Cups as well as the Champions League a year later.
But he has not had an injury-free season, missing Bayern’s first nine Bundesliga games, and the 31-year-old concedes it was time to move on after 11 years in Germany.
“I went there for the experience and for the success,” he said. “But these circumstances were different from those in Germany – and I am always one for surprises and taking risks.”
Alonso started for Munich as they lost 1-0 at home to Borussia Monchengladbach in their opening Bundesliga game, which he did not play in after suffering a calf injury on international duty with Spain.
“My departure was difficult for the club, because I’ve been there for a long time, and the club as well,” he said.
“I have had a long time here – 11 years. I think I fulfilled my duties here as a player.”
Alonso was born in Malaga but went to live with his grandparents when he was six. At the time, his family had moved to Madrid from Malaga.
“My grandparents had a goal to see me play at Atletico for the first time, and that journey has started,” he said.
“It will be the same day I will start to play football again – it will be a happy day.”
Inaki Williams moved to Betis from Valencia in 2005, joining them from Real Madrid
A decade before he played for Valencia’s academy, Williams grew up following the club because his idol was the famed 1982 European Cup-winning midfielder Raul.
“Growing up in Valencia I would see him whenever I went to the mall – we grew up together,” Williams told BBC Radio 5 live.
“For him to come back to Valencia and say he was a fan made me incredibly happy.
“When I arrived at Betis, I was meeting a big name with the name ‘Alonso’. I was like, ‘right, this has got to be done, right?’
“I had big dreams that they will all come true.”
Portugal Under-21 international Williams had spent his entire career at Real Madrid after joining from Porto as a 15-year-old and made seven league appearances for the first team.
In 2010 he signed for Valencia as a right-back before joining Betis as a 23-year-old in 2005.
“I remember seeing him on TV as a kid, the boy looking up to him,” added Williams.
“He can pull the strings without really being that much of a forward. He does not really need to worry about getting a shirt that says ‘forward’ or ‘outside right’ – I can work the ball into the box and get forward, and I like to score and play in the final third.”
He said he feels “a bit of pressure” because he may be expected to do more at a new club than he did at Real Madrid.
“I used to play as a centre-back with Real Madrid and I have always wanted to play like that,” Williams said.
“But I am coming from Real Madrid, so I know what it takes to get a shirt saying ‘set-piece specialist’ or ‘defender’ instead of my number two.
“I have worked on getting back to that position and I hope it pays off.”