The incredible Mr Alonso – how he shaped Leverkusen into a top team

The incredible Mr Alonso – how he shaped Leverkusen into a top team

Xabi Alonso is the coach of the moment in the Bundesliga. Under the 41-year-old, Leverkusen has developed into a title contender. That’s exactly why the question arises: How long will he be coach at Bayer?

Anyone who wanted to get an impression of the serious differences in performance that are possible in the first Bundesliga last match day traveled to Leverkusen. Bayer Leverkusen hosted Union Berlin at the BayArena, the game ended 4-0 for the home team. The current strongest team in the league gave a deeply insecure opponent from the capital no chance. Leverkusen shone once again, while the Union team’s brutal crash caused people to shrug their shoulders because the crisis had lasted so long.

Last season, Union finished fourth in the table and qualified for the Champions League, while Leverkusen finished sixth after an extremely weak start to the season and are now playing in the Europa League. But since then the developments of the two clubs have gone in opposite directions. Union experienced such a drastic drop in form this season that coach Urs Fischer’s team dropped to the bottom of the table. Leverkusen, on the other hand, continued its positive development from last season and has been sitting at the top of the table ahead of FC Bayern Munich as the confident league leader for weeks. It’s the best start to the seasonsince the Werkself were promoted to the Bundesliga in 1979.

Xabi Alonso has ‘created a brilliant ensemble’

The celebrated man behind Leverkusen’s current success is Xabi Alonso, the Spanish coach from the Basque Country. Alonso is the man of the hour in the Bundesliga, his work impresses the league and shows what effect an outstanding coach can have on the team and individual players. The father of three has taken Leverkusen to a new level.

After the success against Union, the football trade magazine “kicker” raved that Alonso had created a “playfully brilliant ensemble”. Midfielder Granit Xhaka described the 41-year-old Basque in front of the Dazn microphone last Saturday: “He is someone who is brutally enthusiastic on the pitch. He is so hungry for success and perfection.”

Alonso is the reason why they are dreaming of a title in Leverkusen this season, their third after the UEFA Cup in 1988 and the Cup in 1993. The club wants to finally overcome the trauma of 2002. At that time, the highly gifted team lost three titles. After an outstanding season, they were only runner-up behind Borussia Dortmund and lost the finals in the cup and Champions League. Since then, Bayer has not gotten rid of the nickname “Vizekusen”. That could change with Alonso. The man is a world champion, European champion, Spanish and German champion, cup winner in England, Spain and Germany. Alonso knows how titles work.

The coach demands dedication from his professionals

Charisma, enthusiasm, highest competence, absolute discipline, supporter of players – these are the attributes that are attributed to Alonso. It’s his total devotion to football, which is also reflected in the “many night shifts” he often does to work on the best possible tactics. Alonso demands the same dedication from his professionals. Jonas Hoffmann knows to report that the trainer is a professional ““quickly get back into the tunnel” if the effort in training isn’t right. “He makes our lives brutally difficult because the commitment he brings across is simply unbelievable. He knows exactly how to deal with the players, when to criticize, when to praise,” says Xhaka.

Alonso impressed as a professional with his high level of game intelligence and discipline. When he moved from Real Madrid to Bayern and Pep Guardiola at the ripe old age of 32, he was impressed by his ability to adapt quickly. Already in the first game he was the ball-proof strategist on the pitch. Getting used to it or misunderstandings with your fellow players? None. Alonso simply fit in and worked perfectly from the first second.

The successful transfers in the summer certainly helped the coach take Bayer to a new level of development. Granit Xhaka, Viktor Boniface, Jonas Hoffmann and Alejandro Grimaldo form the skeleton of the team. But Alonso is good for all players and drives them to absolute top performance. Examples include Jonathan Tah, Odilon Kossounou and Exequiel Palacios, who have found top form. The exceptional talent Florian Wirtz really got going under Alonso and is continuously developing into a world-class player.

Merciless possession tiki-taka like Guardiola once did

Under Alonso, the team celebrates a football that is shaped by the great master coaches under whom he played during his time as a professional at FC Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich: Carlo Ancelotti, José Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. From the latter he adopted the merciless possession tiki-taka football, the fast short passing game in which there is no standstill and always a solution. But despite the enthusiasm for Leverkusen’s great offensive qualities, the basis of Alonso’s success is the stable defense. Only Bayern have currently conceded one goal less in the league.

Alonso has understood how to eliminate the team’s deep-seated weaknesses. In recent years, Leverkusen has often appeared as a talented but weak-nerved team that failed in crucial games and was unable to find a solution against deep opponents. That has completely changed. Bayer is performing so confidently that they can be confident of winning the championship this season. Bayern see it the same way. You have identified Leverkusen as the main competitor in the fight for the championship, well ahead of RB Leipzig or the weakening Borussia Dortmund.

The only problem that they now have in the club management around sports director Simon Rolfes is the question: How long will Alonso be the coach at Leverkusen? Even when he was coaching the U14 team at Real Madrid, it was said that the man would eventually end up at a big club. And its development has confirmed the assumption (if it continues to perform impressively). The “Süddeutsche Zeitung” reported at the weekend that Alonso had secured an exit clause when extending his contract until 2026. Accordingly, he could move to Real Madrid next summer as Ancelotti’s successor for a fee of 15 to 18 million euros.

Until then, the elegant Spaniard will continue to drive Leverkusen to peak performance. And who knows, maybe he likes the Cologne area so much that he wants to stay. His influence is definitely greater here than it would be at the world club Real. In addition, the season is not over and Bayer has not achieved anything yet. Coach colleague Fischer from Union Berlin is a warning example. In football, things can happen very quickly, with success and failure.

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Source: Stern

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