They were part of the midfield that was instrumental in bringing the Champions League and FA Cup to Anfield in successive seasons during the mid-2000s – and now Steven Gerrard cannot wait to be reunited with Xabi Alonso on the pitch once again this weekend.
The duo, who’ve remained close friends ever since first linking up with the Reds in 2004, will take to the field as Liverpool FC Legends face their Bayern Munich counterparts in Saturday’s charity clash on Merseyside.
Alonso represented both clubs with distinction during his playing career – which he called time on last year – and will therefore don both jerseys over the course of the 90 minutes.
But it’s seeing the elegant Spaniard with the Liver Bird upon his chest once again that’s got Gerrard counting down the hours until kick-off.
He told Liverpoolfc.com: “Xabi is a world-class player and also a top-class human being. I miss being around Xabi on a daily basis, I used to love working and playing alongside him.
“I saw him not so long ago and he was in good form and good spirits, he’s staying nice and fit for the game. To play alongside him in a big fixture at Anfield, hopefully in front of a full house, will be rolling back the years and something I’m looking forward to very much.
“He could be the best [midfielder I played with] but that would be disrespectful to all of the other world-class players I played with: Dietmar Hamann, Gary McAllister, Danny Murphy, Javier Mascherano, tons of world-class players.
“Xabi was certainly up there but not just with the players I played with, he is up there with the world’s best.”
The fixture will see a whole host of former crowd favourites return ‘home’.
As well as Alonso, the likes of Luis Garcia, Daniel Agger, Gary McAllister, Jamie Carragher, Vladimir Smicer, Patrik Berger and many more will once again pull on a Liverpool shirt, captained by Robbie Fowler and managed by Ian Rush.
In opposition, Bayern will be able to boast luminaries such as Giovane Elber, Bixente Lizarazu, Owen Hargreaves, Luca Toni and Martin Demichelis.
Also making his LFC Legends debut will be Dirk Kuyt – a man Gerrard played alongside with the Reds for six productive years.
“We’ll definitely need Dirk’s energy,” said the U18s boss. “I’m sure he’s still in good shape, he only retired very recently.
“We’ll need Dirk’s running, endeavour and energy. He is great for the dressing room and to be about – he is a top-class guy, a great character and I’m really looking forward to catching up with him as well.”
The sense of occasion won’t be lost on Gerrard when he takes to the field on Saturday.
Not least the opportunity to grace the Anfield turf once again.
“That’s what I miss very much every day, having the opportunity to run out there every single week or sometimes twice a week,” admitted Gerrard. “So to get the invitation to come and do it against Bayern Munich – and for an excellent cause, which is the main reason why we’re all doing it – of course I couldn’t wait to sign up for it.
“[What I miss the most is] playing in front of the supporters, the atmosphere and competing, having my schedule on a Monday with the build-up to the game at Anfield with three important points at stake or the chance to progress in a cup competition. That was a dream of mine since a very young age so I was always going to miss it when it was gone.”
With the fixture scheduled to help raise funds for the LFC Foundation and other charitable causes, there’ll be a feel-good, friendly factor around Anfield on what promises to be a warm occasion.
Nevertheless, Gerrard predicts the old competitive edges that formed the basis for the legends’ successful playing days will make their way to the fore once the game is under way.
“A lot of players put a front on that they’re chilled and laidback, but once the game starts everyone starts competing and wants to win – like you saw in the Real Madrid game,” he smiled. “Don’t be fooled by some people’s body language, everyone wants to win this game.
“Of course, the important thing is that everyone stays healthy and we raise good money for the cause. I saw that we passed a cheque over for £225,000 to Alder Hey – that’s the reason we want to do it again, to support our local children who need it.”
Money raised from the charity game will help to fund a variety of projects for the LFC Foundation and charity partners. You can watch the match for free, live on the official LFC Facebook page, LFCTV GO, Sky channel 429 and Virgin Media channel 544 (3pm GMT kick-off).