Bayer Leverkusen: Xabi Alonso, I bow – even if it hurts!

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Written By Maya Cantina

Respect for achievements: from cellar child to undefeated champion

When Alonso took over Leverkusen in October 2022, the Werkself were at 17th place in the table with their backs against the wall. Alonso was known to most fans in Germany at the time as a former on-pitch strategist for Liverpool, Real and Bayern or the Spanish national team. Alonso, a magician of passes, a grandmaster of game design. As a player he won all major titles.

But Alonso as coach? Hmm. Who has he trained before? Real Sociedad’s reserve team. It didn’t sound very promising. Yet the successful coach Jose Mourinho had already confirmed that newcomer Alonso had the best possible qualifications for a very good coach in 2019. The Basque showed the first signs of this potential in the 2022/23 Bundesliga season and qualified for the Europa League, with Leverkusen finishing 6 meters off the rankings.

This season the title was already secured on matchday 29 – well deserved! Most points (90), the most attractive playing style, a record series of unbeaten league matches in a row. Simon Rolfes can confidently pat himself on the back for his courageous efforts.

The first-ever championship title for Leverkusen not only ended FC Bayern’s permanent title era (2013 to 2023), but more importantly, the ‘Vizekusen’ joke is also history.

Instead of the international coronation, the first defeat of the season came in the final of the Europa League. Atalanta Bergamo showed Leverkusen its limits . Great matches remain in our memories, for example against Rome or Westham. The second title has only been postponed, on May 25 in the DFB Cup final against second division 1. FC Kaiserslautern, Bayer is the clear favorite.

Refreshing personality: Alonso is an anti-Tuchel

Calm and successful, these are the words I associate with Alonso. This applies to both appearances on the sidelines and in interviews. He answers the often same questions confidently, thoughtfully, self-critically and sympathetically. In terms of type, he is the opposite of the gesture volcano Thomas Tuchel, who was damned by success, who was not forgiven for an untitled Bayern season in Munich and ultimately announced his own end there without reconciliation.

What separates the two, aside from their looks: one developed its players into stars, the other developed its stars into players. Leverkusen worked better as a team. Alonso made his boys confident, the atmosphere was good and the coach himself got involved in the training match. The professionals will run for such a coach ad nauseam. This kind of motivation is now noticeable for Bayer 04. Even a sought-after national player like Florian Wirtz wants to continue playing for Alonso.

Loyalty that hurts: staying in Leverkusen – despite top offers

What, last but not least, I would like to bow to Alonso with inner pain: that he remained loyal to Bayer – despite offers from FC Bayern and Liverpool. This means he can reap the rewards of his work alongside the championship team, having made a name for himself as a coach in the Champions League and proving in the Bundesliga that the 2023/24 title was no coincidence. If not, there are regularly coaching positions available in Munich and Alonso is only 42 years old.

¡Senor Alonso, I am inclined to use!

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