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Pumas coach Hugo Sanchez is known for a quiet demeanour that ensures his sides do not let down their fans. But during Friday’s training session at Barcelona’s Nou Camp – Xabi Alonso’s former home ground – the coach had a surprise for him: a football signed by the player himself.

Alonso, who was Pumas captain during their quarter-final loss to Barcelona at the 1995 Copa Libertadores final, reprises the role for the San Juan side, beating Linus Sundstrom’s 1994 Swedish side to win the league title and their only Copa Libertadores.

The 33-year-old, who has won trophies with Barcelona, Liverpool and Real Madrid, brings welcome experience to Pumas at the start of this season, having previously played under coach Sanchez.

“He’s got history here and that makes him very important for us,” Sanchez told reporters on Friday. “I remember that when Xabi was injured at Liverpool for a long time he was a fantastic player here and he can do a similar job for Pumas,” Sanchez added.

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