At about 6:45, local time, on the evening of September 24, 2016, a lusciously-locked man from Spain stood on a patch of green grass in North London, and held up three fingers. From that moment on, football was never the same again.
That man was of course Marcos Alonso, and he had just been sent on for his Premier League debut for Chelsea by his manager, Antonio Conte. Chelsea were losing horribly, by three goals to nil. Things were about to go very badly awry indeed. But Alonso held up three fingers, meaning three center backs, and changed the course of history.
That 55th-minute substitution started Conte’s Football Revolution, the proverbial blazing inferno, and six years later, the back-three with wing-backs is still a key and winning tactical trend in world football.
Alonso was an average left back, but he was an exceptional left wing-back, especially during that first season as Chelsea rattled off 13 consecutive wins on our way to the Premier League title. It remains our last title, with the 31-year-old one of the last surviving members of that team still with the club until his departure this week (the others are César Azpilicueta, N’Golo Kanté, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek).
Alonso would collect just about every other domestic or European piece of silverware possible over the half-decade that was to follow — all except the League Cup — and score plenty of memorable goals with technically perfect volleys or free kicks, but it’s that one moment that will perhaps forever define him in Chelsea lore.
Marcos, Marcos Alonso ran down the wing for us for six years and 212 appearances. Six trophies, 29 goals, and 23 assists is what the record will show. But he may be remembered long after those records are consigned to the history books.
Barcelona announced him as “a champion” but not before he bade farewell to his time at Chelsea. And we certainly had some good times, didn’t we?
“Can’t thank you enough for the 6 years we spent together. It’s been a real honour to defend the blue colour around the world and to write the history of this great club.
“Special mention to Mr. Roman Abramovich and Antonio Conte for giving me the chance at the very beginning. All the people at the club, stadium and training ground thank you. Managers, teammates, medical staff lead by Dr. Paco Biosca, kitmen etc… it was a pleasure to share the changing room with you all these years.
“And of course, to the fans thank you for your support since day 1. It’s thanks to you that Chelsea is one of the biggest clubs in the world so keep the blue flag flying high.
“Yours forever, running down the left wing for you. M”
Best of luck back home in Spain, Marcos!