MARCOS ALONSO was a Galactico for less than five minutes.
But the manager who handed Alonso his one and only appearance in the Real Madrid first-team – as a late substitute in an April 2010 La Liga win at Racing Santander – is the man plotting Sunderland’s downfall this weekend.
Current Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini was in charge at the Bernabeu when Alonso was coming through the ranks of the Spanish heavyweights.
Yet before the start of the 2010-11 campaign they had both departed.
Despite setting a then club record points tally of 96 in his one and only season in charge of Madrid, it wasn’t enough for Pellegrini to save his job. That’s the price of finishing behind Barcelona in the table.
Two months after Jose Mourinho succeeded Pellegrini at the helm, Alonso had been offloaded to Bolton.
But on-loan Fiorentina left-back Alonso remains full of admiration for Pellegrini, who will look to lift his first major trophy in English football in Sunday’s Capital One Cup final.
Sunderland defender Alonso told the Echo: “I’m thankful for him because he gave me the chance that day.
“He’s a great manager. I think he’s done a great job at Villarreal and then Real Madrid and Malaga.
“But now he’s coaching Man City and I’m playing for Sunderland. It will be better to win against Pellegrini than any other manager.
“He’s very calm in the changing room, but a very good manager.
“He was a bit unlucky at Real Madrid, because that year, we got almost 100 points in the league, but didn’t win it.
“We had a great season, but Barcelona were just playing at an amazing level. But of course, in Madrid, there is a lot of pressure, day-in, day-out.”
The cups have traditionally held far more sway on these shores than in Spain, yet Alonso has embraced the passion on Wearside for Sunderland’s first major final in 22 years, with more than 30,000 cheering the Black Cats on at Wembley.
“I’ve had 30 or 40 people call me from Spain, so there’s been great support from my family and friends out there,” said the 23-year-old.
“In the last couple of years, the Spanish Cup has got to how it used to be.
“But in England, it’s always been like that.
“For players and fans, it’s great to have so many games.”
Sunderland are firm underdogs to end their 41-year wait for a trophy, against a Man City side lying three points off the Premier League’s summit, and with a game in hand.
But Alonso believes that if Sunderland can upset the odds, it will make lifting the League Cup even more memorable.
“They are one of the teams who will always spend more money in the market, so of course, they have the best players in the world,” he added.
“But that’s good.
“If we can win, it will give us even more credit.”
* Don’t forget to pick up your Football Echo souvenir cup final special – out at all good newsagents now.
* Don’t miss tomorrow’s online Football Echo with all the usual favourites – it’s available from around 6.45pm on sunderlandecho.com and the Echo app.