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Friday, Aug. 7, 2009

Alonso completes move to Real Madrid

MADRID (AP) Midfielder Xabi Alonso finalized his transfer to big-spending Real Madrid from Liverpool on Wednesday.

Alonso passed his routine physical to become Madrid's eighth signing in a $365 million spending spree since Florentino Perez returned to the club presidency in June.

Liverpool will receive a reported fee of $43 million for the 27-year-old Spain international, who has signed a five-year contract.

"It's a really important step in my career. I'm very happy to form part of this club and let's hope it all goes well," Alonso was quoted as saying by news agency Europa Press.

Alonso made his first appearance as a Madrid player on Wednesday at the club's training ground for a session with his new teammates. The club said he would be officially presented at an evening news conference.

The Basque midfielder will travel with the team on its two-game North American exhibition tour. Madrid plays at Toronto FC on Friday and against D.C. United on Sunday, ahead of its league opener against Deportivo La Coruna on Aug. 29 or 30.

Madrid hopes Alonso's organizational skills will help balance an offensive lineup which includes newcomers Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Karim Benzema.

The club aims to avoid the mistakes of Perez's previous presidency when — despite the presence of "galacticos" David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and Luis Figo — the team lacked cohesion and endured a trophy drought from 2003-06, its worst run for over 50 years.

"I will try to do what I know how, provide teammates with someone to pass to, balance the team and get the ball to move from one side to another," Alonso said.

Madrid's director general Jorge Valdano has said Alonso will be Madrid's final signing of an offseason in which it bought Ronaldo from Manchester United for a world record fee of $135 million, Kaka from AC Milan for $93.5 million and Benzema from Lyon for $50 million.

The powerhouse is aiming to return to the top of the game after its bitter rival Barcelona enjoyed the most successful ever campaign by a Spanish club by winning the Champions League and the domestic league and cup last season.

"It's a project aimed at doing big things. I think the formula which has been adopted is a good one, with Spanish players who know each other and adding some world class players," Alonso said.

Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez said Wednesday that Alonso asked to leave Liverpool in May and then pushed for a move by submitting a transfer request.

Alonso joined Liverpool in 2004 from Real Sociedad and helped the English club win the Champions League the following year with a goal against AC Milan in the final. At the international level, he helped Spain become European champion in 2008.

With Madrid Alonso will join former Liverpool teammates Alvaro Arbeloa, who moved to Real last week, and goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek.

Alonso thanked the Liverpool fans for their support.

"I'm really grateful to them. My five years there have been fantastic. It will be really difficult to match what they have given me," he said.

Liverpool, which finished runnerup to Manchester United in the Premier League last season, has agreed to sign AS Roma midfielder Alberto Aquilani as Alonso's replacement.

Hull lands Altidore

LONDON (AP) Jozy Altidore says he has joined Premier League club Hull subject to a work permit being granted.

The 19-year-old U.S. striker announced on Twitter that he will be introduced at a news conference Thursday.

He wrote Wednesday: "First match is against Chelsea subject to a work permit . . . thanks for the support and love. Keep it coming."

Altidore joined Villarreal from the New York Red Bulls in June 2008. After making only two starts and four substitute appearances during the first half of the season, he was loaned to Xerez in the second division on Jan. 30.

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