Keen to make his mark

Mikel Alonso, who joined CD Tenerife last season, helping it secure promotion to the top flight, hopes to step out of his younger sibling Xabi’s shadow, writes Tom White.

Xabi Alonso’s arrival at Real Madrid from Liverpool provided the summer transfer window with one of its most high-profile running sagas.

But while the GBP30 million Spain star has been ever-present for the Bernabeu side and has played an influential role in its superb start to the season, another member of the famous footballing family is also seeking to establish himself in the Spanish Primera Division.

Brother Mikel, who joined CD Tenerife last season, helping it secure promotion to the top flight, hopes to step out of his younger sibling’s shadow. The two sons of former Barcelona and Real Sociedad midfielder Periko Alonso came through the latter club’s youth system, with their father claiming: “We’re lucky that both Mikel and Xabi have grown up to be professional players.”

He added: “You could argue that (their famous surname) was harmful, but in football you just have to put the work in every matchday. A player has to demonstrate his worth, regardless of name.”

While Xabi immediately managed to do so, Mikel initially struggled to establish himself as his brother forged a fruitful partnership with Mikel Aranburu in the centre of the Erreala midfield.

However, a loan spell in the Segunda Division with Numancia helped Mikel prove his worth and he returned to secure a first-choice berth in San Sebastian. With Xabi having moved on to Anfield, where he would emerge as a world star, Mikel also opted to try his luck in the English Premier League.

But a 2007/08 season spent on loan at Bolton proved unsuccessful as Mikel made just 12 appearances — and only three, none of them in the league, after Gary Megson’s appointment as manager in late October. He failed to earn a contract during a trial with Greek side Olympiakos and returned to England to train with Swansea, before being offered a route back to his homeland with Tenerife, back in the Segunda Division.

Mikel made 11 appearances as Los Blanquiazules secured a return to La Liga after a seven-year absence and, though he did not start this season in coach Jose Luis Oltra’s starting XI, he made an impact as a first-half substitute by scoring the only goal — heading in Alejandro Alfaro’s free-kick four minutes from time — as Athletic Bilbao was dispatched in Week Four.

That secured one of only two wins for Tenerife so far this term, and also earned the 29-year-old a starting place against Madrid late in September, when he came up against his brother for the first time in their careers.

It was a duel that saw Xabi emerge victorious thanks to a brace from Karim Benzema and a goal from Kaka.

Nevertheless, Mikel kept his place for the next game against Deportivo La Coruna, leaving him as the man in possession of a starting spot going into the international break and with the opportunity to finally cement his status as a playmaker in La Liga.

Only time will tell whether he can achieve that aim, but to do so would be the final piece in the jigsaw for one of Spanish football’s great dynasties.

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