Other Sports

5 questions with Bayern Munich’s Xabi Alonso

Xabi Alonso (left) and Bayern Munich will play Inter Milan in an international soccer friendly next Saturday at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium.
Xabi Alonso (left) and Bayern Munich will play Inter Milan in an international soccer friendly next Saturday at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium. AP

Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium will be the site of another international soccer friendly July 30 when Germany’s Bayern Munich and Italy’s Inter Milan face off at Bank of America Stadium in an International Champions Cup match.

Midfielder Xabi Alonso is a key cog in Bayern’s team. His 16-season pro career has included stints at some of Europe’s top clubs – England’s Liverpool, Spain’s Real Madrid – winning Champions League titles with both – and now Bayern. He made 114 appearances for Spain’s national team, winning two European titles and the World Cup in 2010.

Alonso answered five questions from the Observer’s David Scott:

Q. How often have you played in the United States?

A. I’ve been many times. When I was with Madrid, for six years in a row, we used to go to Los Angeles to training camp, at UCLA. That was pretty good. But this is my first time with Bayern.

It’s great, the lifestyle is so nice. Everyone is into sports, and not just basketball, baseball or American football now. They’re following all sports now, and the soccer is getting better and better.

Q. What’s your opinion of the state of the game in the U.S.?

A. I can see that the game is improving there. It’s become more and more popular at the college level and many young kids are playing it and loving it. It will be great if the pro game gets bigger there. That’s what will make it great in the states.

Q. Can you describe to the American sports fan who might not know, just how big of a club Bayern Munich is?

A. In Europe, there are not many clubs that belong in the aristocracy of football. There is (Real) Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Milan, Liverpool, Manchester United – and Bayern is one of them. The team has such a history and has always been fighting for the biggest trophies, not just in Germany, but in Europe as well. It’s is one of the biggest teams in terms of fans and teams all around the world.

Q. How does it feel to have played for major clubs such as Bayern, Real Madrid and Liverpool?

A. It’s a privilege. I have been lucky enough not just to play, but to have had a commitment from teams also like Liverpool and Madrid. You are more than just a player at those teams. It is a link to being a part of my life and my career to play for teams like that. It has been an honor and a privilege and, professionally, a great challenge. You want to have big success, and that’s the challenge at those kinds of teams.

Q. Who is the best player you have played against?

A. In the last few years, there has been the battle between (Lionel) Messi and (Cristiano) Ronaldo. Their numbers are out of this world. But my first memories, from when I was 19 or 20 as a young professional, are of playing against (current Real Madrid coach Zinedine) Zidane. He made a game that is so complicated look so easy. He was like a ballet dancer. He had a big impact on me.

International Champions Cup

Bayern Munich vs. Inter Milan

When: July 30, 5 p.m.

Where: Bank of America Stadium

Tickets: www.ticketmaster.com. More than 42,000 tickets (including the entire lower bowl) have been sold.