Mr Xabi Alonso
To celebrate the arrival of IWC Schaffhausen on MR PORTER, one of the world’s most-gifted footballers talks us through his other passion – watches
If there is an unfortunate stereotype of the multi-millionaire professional footballer being a brash attention-seeker – all flamboyant bling and no discerning taste – then Mr Xabi Alonso turns it on its head.
The Spanish 34-year-old former Real Madrid and Liverpool midfielder is currently playing in Germany for Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich. He and his wife, Ms Nagore Aranburu, live in a beautiful yet understated family home in the leafy outskirts of Munich, close to the international school two of their three trilingual children – Jon, 8, and Ane, 6 – attend. Emma, their three year old (nicknamed “Merkel” after the German Chancellor because “she is in charge”), is still at kindergarten.
Humble, warm, unaffected, cultured, gentlemanly… there is little about Mr Alonso that screams footballer – no over-the-top haircut, diamond-encrusted jewellery or loud supercar. He drives his inconspicuous Audi to and from training every day, rather than the head-turning classic Mercedes 190 SL convertible that he keeps in his garage for quiet country drives on free afternoons. (The Porsche 356 that he drives in this film is on loan while his Mercedes is being serviced.) On the pitch, he is everywhere; off it, he largely stays out of the limelight, preferring to spend as much time as possible with his young family and their “crazy English bulldog”, Rita. But, if Mr Alonso does have one extravagance, it’s his predilection for fine watches.
His well-considered collection features pieces from Patek Philippe, Franck Muller, Audemars Piguet, Rolex and Panerai, among others – although he is visibly uncomfortable going into too many details for fear of appearing vulgar. His favourite brand is IWC Schaffhausen because the refinement and subtlety of its watches best reflects his understated personality and sense of style. “I like IWC watches because they’re not overly showy, attention-grabbing watches,” he says. “They have a certain sophistication without being flashy.”
The commanding midfielder is one of the most-gifted players in Spain’s golden generation, which was nigh on unbeatable for five or six years, winning the European Championship in 2008 and 2012 – and the World Cup in 2010. His 114 appearances for the national team make him the fifth most-capped player in Spain’s history.
A true aficionado and the “brain” of every team he has represented, Mr Alonso is renowned for his elegance, composure and perceptive passing – as well as the occasional goal from the halfway line. As Spanish sports newspaper Marca once quipped, he is so graceful on the ball, “he could even play in a suit and tie”.
Such was his early promise, Mr Alonso captained his hometown team Real Sociedad at just 20. He won the Champions League in 2005 with Liverpool, scoring the crucial equaliser in the breathtaking “Miracle of Istanbul” final against AC Milan, when the Reds came back from 3-0 down at half-time. After a £30m transfer to Real Madrid in 2009, he won the same trophy again in 2014 – La Decima, Real’s much-anticipated 10th European Cup. He’s now in his third season at Bayern Munich, with whom he has twice won the league, and now speaks decent German to add to his fluent English, Spanish and Basque.
Most of Mr Alonso’s watches have a story behind them to commemorate a landmark event in his life – of which there have been many. “For me, every special moment is bound to be linked to a particular watch, and whenever I put it on I’m transported back to that moment – such as when we won the Champions League with Liverpool or the World Cup with Spain.”
The watch that means the most to him in his entire collection, however, is the IWC Ingenieur that Ms Aranburu gave to him as a wedding present to wear on the day they got married in 2009. “For me it represents the fact that I had found a woman who thought about me, about what I like, and my personality,” he says. “I don’t wear it much, just on really special occasions.”
It was Ms Aranburu who gently encouraged her camera-shy husband to make this a-day-in-the-life film with MR PORTER – something they will enjoy looking back on as a family in the future. And it is partly for his family that Mr Alonso continues to invest in his watch collection – or at least that’s how he justifies it. “I don’t just see the watches as my belongings, but as a legacy for my kids, especially my son, Jon, who in a few years’ time can wear one with pride and that added meaning because his father gave it to him,” he says.