MARCOS Alonso has been centre of attention ever since news broke that Serie A giants Fiorentina had been thwarted in their attempts to lure him away from the Reebok.
Attention from Italy might well have been a distracting factor heading into the FA Cup clash with Everton, but Dougie Freedman paid tribute to his young full-back for pulling out a top-drawer display despite all the furore over the Viola’s rejected bid.
The result may have gone against Wanderers as John Heitinga’s late strike put them out of the competition in the most heartbreaking fashion.
But the 22-year-old, whose contract runs out in the summer, produced the performance of his Bolton career to raise hope that even if he is to leave, his mind is still squarely on the job at hand.
“He was fantastic,” Freedman said of the Spaniard. “Marcos’s contract, he had an offer (from Fiorentina) but we turned it down, but he looked me in the eye and said ‘if I stay, then I’ll give you 100 per cent’.
“I can’t sing his praises enough because fair play to the kid, he’s taken it the right way.”
Alonso still has only 16 first team appearances to his name since signing from Real Madrid in July 2010 but is now enjoying the longest stretch of first team football since he arrived in England.
Freedman believes he is one of a handful of fringe players who are now ready to become regular contributors to the cause.
“When I arrived Marcos just needed an opportunity,” he said. “I felt one or two of the fringe players were maybe not that fit but we’ve worked very hard for six weeks, giving them a pre-season really, and now we’re getting the benefit of seeing these players play.
“When I get asked the question next week, why am I changing the team again? I’ll tell you the answer – it's because we need to get these players in the team again.”
Freedman rates his side’s performance against Everton as one of the best in his four months at the club, even though his joy was obviously tempered by the Toffees’ late winner.
“It was difficult to take, obviously,” he said. “I feel for the fans a little bit for the fans because we’d put in a fantastic performance against a top-six Premier League side and we were unfortunate to lose the game.
“I felt we started nervously for the first 20 minutes and started nervously. We went behind deservedly.
“But that wasn’t a setback and didn’t affect us because it was possibly one of the best hours since I have been here. We created chances and got a goal back. We looked the more likely side to win but in the end, the small details that have been missing – possibly over the last couple of years – has let us down.”