Football is a tribal industry.
The whole premise of the game hinges on tense rivalries and animosity between different sets of club fans which ultimately makes it so captivating.
But every now and then, a player comes a long who has this ability to unify supporters in mass adoration.
None more so than Xabi Alonso.
The Spanish technician has won almost everything there is to win in the game, including the World Cup and two European Championships with an indomitable Spain side at the turn of the decade.
But his career and indeed his legacy are about so much more than just winning trophies.
Alonso was the creator-in-chief of arguably four of the best club or international sides of the last decade, with Liverpool (2009), Real Madrid (2009-2014) Bayern Munich (2014-) and Spain (2008-2012).
He was part of a dying breed too.
Alonso, in amongst all the blood and thunder demanded with the intensity of the modern game, had that rare ability to put his foot on the ball and slow any match down to his pace.
Pep Guardiola once said: “If we signed him to chase opponents, we should forget about him. He would be the worst player in the world.
“We signed him to dominate the game. Once Xabi has the ball, he is the best player.”
And that’s from the greatest purist to grace the game since Johan Cruyff, and a man who has coached Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
Alonso’s career will of course be remembered for his tendency to score goals from his own half, but his unique trait to make the most complex facets of the game look so simple makes a him a role model to any burgeoning young professional.
Granted he had the silky Thiago Alcantara and the irrepressible Arturo Vidal alongside him but, even at 35, he ran the game as Bayern Munich humiliated Arsenal in 2017.
As a Liverpool fan Alonso really can do no wrong in my eyes, but even when you mention his name to rival fans his popularity resonates in the same way.
N’Golo Kante might be the flavour of the modern game with his non-stop running and searing heat-maps, but Alonso’s almost care-free nonchalance is a far more attractive prospect to any neutral consumer.
That’s what made him stand out – because while Alonso’s skill-set is completely unobtainable, he’s also tangible because he played exactly how any football fan would want to play the game.
Similarly off the field he was never one to create controversy or speak his mind, with even his seven-word retirement announcing illustrating how he preferred to let his feet do the talking.
Already, he is sorely, sorely missed.
WATCH: Alonso will be remembered as one of the greats