Guardiola: Xabi Alonso the worst defender in the world

The Spaniard was sent off against Shakhtar on Tuesday night for two rash challenges but his boss says he is not in the team for his tackling ability

Pep Guardiola has described Xabi Alonso as the worst player in the world from a defensive perspective, but pointed out that Bayern Munich did not sign the midfielder to recover the ball – but keep it.

Alonso was sent off in Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 first-leg clash with Shakhtar Donetsk, after picking up a first-half booking for a mistimed tackle on Alex Teixeira and the earning a second yellow for pulling back the same player with 25 minutes remaining.

The Spaniard’s sending-off obviously left Bayern in a perilous position but the Bundesliga leaders held on to claim a 0-0 draw and Guardiola refused to criticise Alonso for his ill-discipline.

“We want to keep the ball with us for as long as we can,” he told reporters on Friday, “so that’s why I want players like Xabi and Thiago [Alcantara]. 

“But when it comes to running after another player, Xabi Alonso is the worst player in the world!

“But then, that is not what we signed him for.”

Guardiola also insisted that his decision to start Robert Lewandowski on the bench against Shakhtar was not an expression of his dissatisfaction with the striker’s poor form, with the Pole having netted just once in his previous five Bundesliga appearances.

“I am very happy with Robert,” the Catalan said. “He knows my opinion on his performances and his quality. I do not doubt him. 

“But I have five top strikers and we always have to adjust to the opponents. It is not easy to play with five or six attackers in Europe!”

Meanwhile, Thiago Alcantara returned to training on Thursday, after nearly a year out of action with knee ligament damage, and Guardiola is optimistic that the midfielder will soon be ready to return to first-team action.

“Maybe he can train with us again in two or three weeks,” the former Barcelona boss added. “Then we have to see how his knee reacts. 

“But the doctor and Thiago are optimistic and so am I. He is on a good path. This is the last phase of his treatment and his knee is okay.”

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