Alvaro Arbeloa will go down as modern football’s hard working hero

In an already busy summer, it would have been easy to miss the news that Alvaro Arbeloa has retired.

Given the bigger names calling it a day, the Spanish full-back won’t get many headlines or column inches. In truth, that’s exactly how we would prefer it to be. It’s the perfect summary of a career that has been played in the same unassuming manner.

Never a headline maker, Arbeloa has had some career regardless of that fact. A look at his trophy cabinet, though, suggests he deserves more attention than he is getting.

Starting his young career at Zaragoza, he made the move to Real Madrid in 2001 at the age of 18. That sparked a five-year spell with the Spanish giants that could have proven disastrous.

Bouncing around the B and C teams, he failed to break into the first-team, making just two appearances for them between 2004 and 2006; success at the Bernabeu would have to wait until later.

Instead, it was Deportivo La Coruna where he would make his first steps; with a six-month spell there setting up what was to come later.

Those 21 games caught the eye of then Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez, who moved for his compatriot at the end of the 2007 January transfer window. The move would prove to be the best £2.6million Benitez ever spent.

Forced to wait for his full debut, Arbeloa could not have asked for a better beginning to life at Anfield when it came.

Tasked with containing none other than Lionel Messi, Arbeloa did something many more talented footballers than he have failed to do; he kept the Argentinian star quiet.

Marking Messi out of the game and helping his new team secure a 2-1 win at the Nou Camp, it was the start of a very strong spell at Anfield for him.

“For Arbeloa, I only have my words of gratitude. In my 16 years as a coach I have him in my podium of the most important players of whom I’ve worked with. A good player and an exceptional man.”

Jose Mourinho

In two full seasons as Liverpool’s first choice, Arbeloa established himself as the undisputed right-back at the club. His first year saw them reach the semi-finals of the Champions League; his second involved a Premier League title challenge.

Not a man for the headlines, his impact went under the radar. However, someone was watching, and that was former club Real Madrid; a return to the Bernabeu in the summer of 2009 followed.

Clearly determined to prove what they had been missing, Arbeloa set about making himself the best Spanish right back around. Not only that, he was among the best right backs in the world full stop.

Defensively solid, capable going forward and a consummate professional, his nine years in Spain were nothing but a success. His eight winners medals are a testament to that.

Flying under the radar as he always had, he was a mainstay in the side, making no fewer than 30 appearances in all competitions in all but one of his seasons there.

International acclaim was also forthcoming. Arbeloa played a role in Spain’s dominance from 2008 to 2012, picking up World Cup winners’ medals and European Championship medals with ease.

Euro 2012 was a particular highlight as he played a key role in a Spanish defence that conceded just one goal across the entire tournament. Only the arrival of Dani Carvajal forced Arbeloa to concede his reign as Spain’s best right-back.

A short stint at West Ham last season may have been disappointing but that is just one sour note in an otherwise glorious career.

Never flashy, never a headline maker, Arbeloa has done more than many footballers would care to dream of; the Spaniard is proof that hard work can yield success, even in football.

Perhaps in future, he’ll be remembered more fondly than he has been this summer, he certainly deserves it.

Start the discussion

to comment