Real Madrid and Spanish international superstar Xabi Alonso is set to join Beijing Guoan in the summer on a three year deal worth an eye watering $60 million – can exclusively reveal.
And in a bizarre twist, the former Liverpool midfielder revealed that he was so moved by the Guoan fans’ ceaseless chanting of his name that he felt an instant affinity with the Gongti faithful.
The signing sees Beijing Guoan play catch-up with big-spending rivals Shanghai Shenhua and Guangzhou Evergrande – clubs based in China’s other two major cities.
Alonso recently took in a Beijing Guoan match during a promotional tour to China and a source close to the club told that the player said, “I was so impressed with 50,000 fans calling my name so often throughout the game, a few fans saw me sitting in the VIP box then just seconds later the whole stadium was chanting Xabi! Xabi! – I don’t how word spread so fast but I was really touched by the sincere support and I just knew that this was the club for me.”
The Spaniard revealed that he made his final decision after learning that the fans were shouting his name through the whole match during subsequent games which he was not in China to attend. “I’ve always had a fascination for China ever since I learned the cockney rhyming slang for ‘mate’ during my time playing in England. I thought about joining Shanghai, but when I visited there were so many people wandering around outside my hotel in pyjamas I thought I was in a city of sleep walkers.”
The deal is thought to include a range of commercial agreements, which will see Alonso endorse leading roast duck, baijiu and cigarette brands. A leading Chinese business analyst, Gou Shi, said the deal represented a breakthrough in sports marketing, linking local cultural icons with a global sporting one.