Fresh off the field with the world once more at his feet, Xabi Alonso called in to the adidas London flagship Oxford Street store ahead of the Champions League Final. Trophy in hand and heart very much on his sleeve, we sat down with a man who has redefined football cool.

You are the living definition of suave football with a bit of bite, you've seen so much. Can you remember the earliest memory you have growing up watching the champions league?

“It has to be one of the finals. Either the final of Barca v Sampadoria or Juve versus Dortmund. I think both of them were two of the earliest memories I have of the Champions League. But for me, every Tuesday or Wednesday was always a big night there was a lot of build up and we’d all be gathered around the TV for them.”

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Wind it forward and you're making your debut in the tournament. What goes through your head as you hear that music?

“It’s really special you know. Having watched it so many times, having gone so far to be able to play in it - the whole scenario is different. From the atmosphere through to the ball you play with - everything is different. It’s not a normal game and you really feel like you are in the elite of European football.”

Is it quite an emotional occasion? There seems to be this different, more intense atmosphere for Champions League Game - how would you describe it from a players perspective?

“Special. It’s special - it’s not a normal game. It’s a European night and the Champions League means that a big part of Europe is paying attention. Especially when you’re in the Quarter-finals or Semi-finals of course and as a football player, that the emotion you want to feel. As a professional you want to have the thrill of those nights and luckily I have been able to live some of them.”

Naturally, being mid week and adding to the pressures of a busy calendar, would your preparation differ for a champions league game?

“Yeah for sure. I think nowadays we tend to prepare in a different way, especially when you’re in the knock-out stage, each game is like a big battle and you need to prepare really well and put a lot of emphasis on the small details because that can make all the difference.”

One thing you notice is the dedication of the fans who travel on champions league nights. Obviously it's a big commitment but the most passionate fans are usually in attendance. Could you notice a different atmosphere on the road? Say the Liverpool fans as an example.

“For sure, it gives you a chance to notice more of what it means. The fans that travel all across Europe, they are so passionate - so committed and they want to be at that game so much. I really thank them for that, many of them go the whole distance and it’s special to be able to share the journey with them. It’s incredibly special to see.”

Around Christmas time, in early December you posted a picture on Instagram watching a Bayern game from in among the fans, Do you think now having hung up your boots you'll go and watch the game from the fans perspective more? It must be quite a strange view to see it from having been on the pitch for the number of games you have.

“Yeah for sure, I will. When you are a professional, you are so involved in the game that you only say the game in one way. Now though, taking a couple of steps back and getting another point of view, I’m looking forward to it. I will absolutely travel around to watch football because at the end of the day, I really love it. I can’t move too far away from it.

It’s completely different to see the game from the side of the pitch. Even when you try to understand what the guy is thinking on the pitch it is difficult. For all this time, it has been me that is on the pitch, I was that guy. So to have this new perspective, it won’t be normal for me.”

You are a cultured gent with a creative edge, football has offered you a chance to see the world. With the champions league in mind, how have you enjoyed the life experiences of seeing different parts of the globe?

“I like travelling and I have travelled a lot but mainly with football, you’ll see the airport and then the stadium so it’s not quite the normal tour of a city. For sure though, the fans can experience a whole lot and get a different perspective with the Champions League. I like that they get to experience different culture.”

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The nature of the tournament means you get see some of the most unexpected places in the world, do you look back to memories of particular stadiums with fond thoughts? Which of the weird and wonderful stand out?

“I love the very best. There are so many stadium where I have loved to play - Anfield, The Bernabeu, the Allianz Arena. When I played at Highbury, I really loved to play there and also Dortmund’s stadium - they are fantastic places with great atmosphere. I’ll remember those moments for sure.”

There's obviously going to be a couple of particular moments that stand out, what split second does your mind go back to when you think back to that night in Turin?

“[laughs] I can’t explain what went through my mind when I missed that penalty. It was a bit of a shock moment when I said to myself, “no, that can’t happen” and luckily I was able to put it right straight away. It was a relief but incredible.”

That must have been an emotional roller coaster. Can you describe the turbulence of that game? To be in your shoes then must have been fantastically up and down…

“Absolutely. Just so many emotions. Even before the game, before the 120 minutes, we were so excited about this opportunity to play the biggest game on earth. It was the Champions League final and we wanted to make history. Things started pretty bad and they were battering us in the first half but that’s football and that’s the beauty. The unexpected can happen and we made a miracle, literally a miracle in football terms and it’s something all the football world will remember where they were during that final. So many people come up to me and tell me where they were that night and how they felt when I scored. It’s a part of history.”

What’s that moment like when you step off the pitch and you’ve just won the Champions League?

“We were in a complete cloud. Constantly questioning, “wow, did that really happen!?” - the euphoria around us and the joy. You could see that fans going crazy, we were going crazy as well - it was the first time for most of us and we loved it.”

What's it like to go back into the changing room after a big night on the pitch, the celebration must be incredible but how do you deal with that come down?

“Not so much a come down then, we didn’t come down until three days later. We were in that mood where nothing could bring us down. Such happiness.”

Outside of the champions league and football in general, do you think that's one of the real mental challenges the highs are obviously met with lows too…

“Yeah absolutely. The football life is pretty different and a special one. But for me, you know, I’ve always tried to be really down to earth and known what I want with my friends and my family so now, hopefully the change and coming off the pitch, won’t be too hard for me. I will adjust myself slowly back into the normal citizen life [laughs].”

In playing with the sides you have and the stages you've got to in the tournament. You've played with and against the very best. People will have looked at you and said to themselves..."I'm playing against this guy, what a moment". Was there anyone you felt a real privilege to be on the pitch at the same time as?

“Ah yeah, I remember when I started. There were a lot of players I would look and say to myself, “wow, I’m defending him, I have to get the ball off him”. There were a lot of idols and to play against those that I have has been a dream almost.”

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Were there ever any players that you thought might not get the adulation they deserve and go under the radar but were particularly in awe of? A lot of people use Paul a Scholes as an example…

“Yeah, for sure there are so many players like that. Paul Scholes is one of them, Michael Carrick is another one. When I got here to England, playing against Patrick Vieira was incredible.”

You must have collected a lot of shirts and memorabilia from champions league nights, including a couple of medals. Can you tell us some things you've kept hold of that you have a strong attachment with? Example being boots, programmes, shirts, something out of the ordinary?

“I have a few special things. My dad being a player also, he has for example a shirt from Zico, a shirt from Maradona. I have a Zidane shirt, Roy Keane, Alan Shearer - I have a nice collection. Not a huge about amount but those I have, I really appreciate them. Less is more.”

Over the last few weeks you've suited up in the Predator Mania Champagne remakes. Talk us through that, how excited were you to see them making a comeback?

“When I got them, I just had the biggest smile. I was so excited to have them back because I loved playing with the Predator. Playing my last few games with them was almost like, “wow, that’s the way I wanted to do it”. To have something like that, that meant so much to me, you know? I have worn them every day and to be back with the Predator, I loved it. It was like going back to the start. It was like going full circle. They are not normal boots. We all love football and have had many football boots but they stand out among many. They are the ones. They will be kept in a special place for sure.”

Like a fine wine, your style has matured. I'll be sad not to see your face on the pitch anymore, have you gained a taste for fashion and a tidy beard as you've grown older?

“No I wouldn’t say so. I would say that I have always been curious. In many areas I’d say I’m curious. From style, to cars, to architecture, to movies and music - it’s not just one particular thing. I’d say I’ve always had that curiosity to do new things and learn new things and also meet interesting people. I like to get around people who inspire me.”

What does the next chapter look like for you? Are there some things you'd like to achieve now you've entered this next phase?

“Yeah I mean it’s exciting - I have widespread options and time will tell. At the moment, I’d prefer to not to plan anything and those other things will come. Stepping off the pitch still feels very fresh, it’s just been a matter of days and I don’t feel like a former player yet. I’ll need a few months before I feel that. This is now holiday time.”

“In terms of what I would like to achieve, not so much. I want to spend time with family - with my wife and my kids because the football life does mean that each weekend you need to go away and you make sacrifices there while you’re playing. I’ve loved playing but I have done that now. Now I will have to do things that pursue other passions. Just not so soon, a bit of a break first.”

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Football will always be running through your veins I’m sure?

“Oh yeah, it won’t suddenly go. It will always be with me - it’s part of me.”

Finally, having experienced the game in such a great way you have, what piece of advice would you pass on to the next generation who are coming into it now?

“The main thing is that when you are young, you have to enjoy it. When you grow older and it starts to become more serious, you have to focus on the game. You need to really understand it, really prepare and study it. That’s what I did.”

From all your experience, if there's one thing you'd change looking at the future of the game, what would it be?

“Physically, the team's these days are so well worked. Tactically also, there is so much being perfected. For me, the change could be a mental one. I think that when players are trying to control emotions and always try and be better - that’s the tough part. When you go through those first emotional moments, there’s a lot to deal with and that’s a big field to explore in football.”

Photography by Ossi Piispanen for SoccerBible