He may not have Eden Hazard’s trickery or Willian’s pace but Marcos Alonso’s ability as a footballer, and importance to Chelsea, cannot be understated.
Their interest comes two years after he signed for the Blues, having arrived from Fiorentina in a £23 million ($30m) deal that left many scratching their heads as to why a Premier League title contender would be bringing in a player who had only been on loan at Sunderland a few years prior.
After leaving Real Madrid, where he’d primarily been playing for their ‘B’ side, Alonso spent three seasons at Bolton Wanderers before the aforementioned loan spell on Wearside. It had seemed, back then, that his career wasn’t going anywhere fast.
Since then, though, he has starred for Fiorentina in Serie A to earn his big move to Chelsea, where his top-level performances have seen him receive rave reviews as well as call-ups to the Spain national team set-up.
Should interest from La Liga return in the January window, Maurizio Sarri’s side may well be pressed into offering a new deal to Alonso – but it certainly wouldn’t be undeserved.
These are fruitful times for a player who has had to be patient to reach the top, with Alonso having only won his first trophy – the Premier League title no less – in 2017.
Michael Laudrup’s son Andreas played with Alonso at Real Madrid Castilla and built up a friendship with the left-back, with the Blues defender having communicated with the Dane in English in what was a difficult Spanish-speaking environment for new players at the club.
And Laudrup believes Alonso has been quietly making smart decisions throughout his career and, having become a football agent having retired early from the professional game due to injury, he now uses the Spaniard as an example to the players he manages.
“We always travelled together to training,” Laurdrup told Goal. “The thing I remember from Real Madrid was that I came to the club without speaking Spanish.
“It was hard to understand the instructions in training and in the games without being able to understand the language but thankfully a couple of team-mates like Marcos could speak English.
“They could translate a little bit for me. For me, there’s no words that can explain how impressed I am about his career. When I played with him at Real Madrid he was good but now he is one of the players I tell my players to look at.
“Look at the steps he made before coming to Chelsea and how he always made the right decisions. That’s amazing, he is now playing at Chelsea, won the league and now he has made his debut for Spain’s national team. That’s an amazing career.”
Having flourished in former manager Antonio Conte’s preferred 3-5-2 and 3-4-3 systems, Alonso has looked largely impressive under new boss Sarri and the switch to a back four.
His technique, positional awareness and free-kick ability remain a weapon for the Blues, who have played Alonso despite having the option of the club’s January signing Emerson Palmieri.
Indeed, Alonso was Chelsea’s third top goalscorer in the Premier League last season with seven goals, and with 14 strikes and six assists to his name since he joined the Blues, he has been involved in more goals than any other defender since the beginning of the 2016-17 season.
That doesn’t include his two game-changing moments against Newcastle last time out, where he won a penalty and also set-up Olivier Giroud for the header that eventually led to DeAndre Yedlin putting into his own net.
Hazard, Alvaro Morata, Pedro and Willian are all attacking weapons available to Sarri, but Alonso has sufficiently chipped in, earning the PFA vote for the league’s best left-back last season.
It’s fair to say there have been teething problems as Alonso adapts to Sarri’s way of playing.
He didn’t cover himself in glory during what was a disastrous 15 minutes of lax defending from the entire Chelsea team against Arsenal at the start of the season, with some Blues supporters keen to pin the blame on Alonso.
To the majority, though, he remains a hero.
Once little known to anyone in Spain but now he’s one of his country’s finest full-backs. It’s already been an incredible journey in professional football for the 27-year-old and one suspects the best is still to come.