Leverkusen’s big coup: Xabi Alonso puts FC Bayern and Liverpool under stress

Leverkusen’s big coup
Xabi Alonso is putting FC Bayern and Liverpool under stress

By Tobias Nordmann

Before the crucial weeks, the internationally sought-after Xabi Alonso announced his decision to stay as coach at Bayer Leverkusen. FC Bayern and Liverpool FC are left behind. From Bayer’s perspective, everything is going perfectly.

In Leverkusen they were publicly relaxed the whole time. They regularly and confidently boiled down the excitement surrounding coach Xabi Alonso. But people didn’t really trust the roast away from Bayerkreuz. The fact that the Spanish coach would actually stay at Bayer beyond this summer didn’t seem as set in stone as the bosses wanted to convey. In terms of sport, there were and are few reasons that would drive Alonso away from his current employer, the elusive league leader in the Bundesliga with chances of winning the cup and the Europa League, but there were big advances – to which he is now not succumbing.

There had been a small hint of what became official this Friday in the past few days. The coach of the unbeatable Bayer Leverkusen team will continue to be called Xabi Alonso next season. Bayern’s honorary president Uli Hoeneß had declared the day before that it was virtually impossible for his club to bring in the coach. Nothing had to happen contractually for the decision now announced, because the working paper was valid until 2026 anyway. But because the international coaching market has been surging for weeks and has been exposed to the worst eruptions in many years, the rumors had become louder and hotter – including unrest in the exciting final phase of the season.

At times it seemed clear (apart from Bayerkreuz) that Alonso would either move to FC Bayern, where a successor to Thomas Tuchel is desperately being sought, or go to Liverpool FC to take on the emotionally and sportingly difficult legacy of Jürgen Klopp. He left a big mark as a strategist at both clubs and is still a person that fans and bosses rave about. Third in the league (of the former clubs with great love) was Real Madrid, but because the eternal hero football coach Carlo Ancelotti wanted to continue there a bit, the option was quickly taken off the table. The Royals, it is said, are a great longing for the 42-year-old Alonso.

The top clubs are coming under pressure

It may be fulfilled in 2026, when Ancelotti and Alonso’s working papers expire, which would then be a suitable match. But he doesn’t want to deal with such scenarios. He politely answered a question about whether he would stay in Leverkusen for one or two more years. Everything cleared up for the Spaniard. And for the club, which continues to race towards the perfect season. No game has been lost this season, neither in the league, nor in the cup, nor in the Europa League. The small triple is possible. This has never happened in Leverkusen. And now Bayer can continue on its path without any disruptive noise. Full focus on the game operations.

This is a remarkable sign from Alonso. Not only because he resists the temptations of the top clubs, but also because he can hardly top this season. Sure, Bayer is moving back into the Champions League and thus onto the biggest stage in European football. Alonso can then demonstrate his qualities at the highest level and compete with the teams of potential employers of the future – and possibly annoy them. As he does nationally with former club FC Bayern, who are now coming under even greater pressure when looking for a coach. Ralf Rangnick suddenly appears as the top candidate.

The decision should also be valuable for his Bayer players, many of whom made significant leaps in performance under him. The Spanish super coach led eight footballers into their national team squads for the first time this season. This also applies to the 28-year-old Spaniard Alejandro Grimaldo and Robert Andrich, who is even a year older and has become a snappy top option alongside the returnee Toni Kroos. “The players themselves have given me so many reasons. The team’s development is parallel to that of me as a coach,” Alonso said with gratitude.

FC Bayern is looking for quick clarity

In the title fight, the championship leader got some peace back in his own ranks on this day, while the pursuer, who had been left behind in terms of points, still has side issues that at least make planning for the coming season more difficult. The new sports boss Max Eberl had indicated that squad issues of course depend on the coach’s decision. He hopes to have clarity in April. Without letting yourself drift. The record champions are longing for stability after (too) many rotations in the coaching position.

But Alonso is also taking a small risk with his confession. Many players have put themselves in the shop window this season. National player Florian Wirtz, for example, who according to his father and advisor will stay, Jeremie Frimpong, Viktor Boniface or the outstanding Alejandro Grimaldo. They’re not the only ones. Who will stay? Not clear. Likewise, whether Leverkusen can pull off such a sensational transfer summer again, when every big decision was a direct hit, with Boniface, Grimaldo or Granit Xhaka, who dominates the midfield with robustness, game intelligence and mentality.

But what would have been the alternative? Getting into the troubled waters in Munich and possibly being worn out quickly, like his prominent predecessors Julian Nagelsmann and Tuchel. Or to follow in the gigantic footsteps of Klopp in Liverpool, who has become a club saint with his style, his successes and his football? Alonso did everything right, at the perfect time.

source site-59