‘I came to Kells when I was 14 and enjoyed my summer’: Xabi Alonso has fond memories of Meath ahead of Europa League final

The former Liverpool star knows Ireland having spent a summer in Co Meath studying English when he was a teenager.

He arrived in the capital with the Bundesliga title already secured by Leverkusen ahead of their European clash against Atalanta, and also with the possibility of achieving a notable treble in the German Cup final clash against Bayern de Munich at the weekend, as his team is undefeated all season.

Fan Zone at Dublin Castle before the Europa League final

“The focus is on the game, we have played 51 games, the players understand the different situations and prepare, the work is done, now is the time to give our best and we will do it on Wednesday night. The players are ready and well prepared, I have a good feeling it will be no different,” he said in his pre-match press conference at Lansdowne Road, officially known as the Dublin Arena due to UEFA’s ban on naming sponsors.

Alonso played GAA during his time as a 14-year-old student in Meath and has fond memories.

“No, that moment (the European final) was not in my plans. I came here (at) 14 years old to Kells, I enjoyed my summer, it’s always great to come to Dublin since then, since my years in Liverpool,” he said.

“Since then I have had a strong connection with Ireland, it is fantastic to be here, the stadium is fantastic and our fans will enjoy the whole day, leading up to the game, and it will be a great game.

“We respect Atalanta but I have confidence in us, we have confidence that we can achieve it.

“The energy is good, the confidence is good, adding everything together we have reached this moment and now we have to take advantage of this week to live the best we can and enjoy it,” he added.

“We were very close to reaching the final last year, we took advantage of that disappointment to fight for even more to achieve success and take the next step.

“If you reach the final, you are not only going to make numbers, you are going to win it, it is a unique game and we will try to make one last effort for this season, the team is ready to do so, the team enters with the right mentality that has given us brought many successes so far.”

Bayer will be supported by 12,000 fans in Dublin for the match.