I do not lobby to be here: Xabi Alonso, the man and the coach, and how he’s become the favourite to be Liverpool’s next manager

Xabi Alonso, the man and the coach, and how he’s emerged as the front-runner to take over as Liverpool’s manager going forward: I don’t lobby to be here.

Special report as Paul Gorst discusses Xabi Alonso, the Bayer Leverkusen manager who is predicted to succeed Jurgen Klopp as Liverpool manager, with Anfield legend Jamie Carragher and German football expert Seb Stafford-Bloor

LEVERKUSEN, GERMANY – FEBRUARY 10: Before the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern München and Bayer 04 Leverkusen at BayArena on February 10, 2024 in Leverkusen, Germany, head coach Xabi Alonso observes. (Image via Getty Images/MB Media/Rene Nijhuis)

On February 10, 2024, Xabi Alonso watches before Bayer 04 Leverkusen and FC Bayern München play in the Bundesliga at BayArena. (Photo credit: Getty Images/MB Media/Rene Nijhuis)

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When the name Bayer Leverkusen is mentioned, Liverpool supporters of a certain era always wince and yearn for what could have been.


It has been almost 22 years since Gerard Houllier’s UEFA Cup winners advanced to the European Cup final eight, where they were eliminated 5-3 on aggregate following a 4-2 loss to the German team.


Anfield supporters’ mental image of Leverkusen includes Michael Ballack’s strength and class, an incorrect claim made by Houllier that his team was “ten games from greatness,” and a terrifying Champions League quarterfinal exit.


These days, that’s not the case. Reds supporters around the globe are now watching to see how Xabi Alonso is doing in command of a team he has led from the Bundesliga’s bottom to the top in less than 18 months. It’s even more impressive because his charges have a five-point advantage over reigning champion Bayern Munich.


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What might occur if Xabi Alonso took over as Liverpool manager in place of Jurgen Klopp was forewarned.


Xabi Alonso has already hinted that he might succeed Jurgen Klopp as manager of Liverpool.


Jurgen Klopp is not pleased that Liverpool may have to make a difficult decision due to the “blue card” sin bin rule.

And since Jurgen Klopp made the shocking announcement that he would be leaving Anfield after nine largely successful years as manager, Liverpool’s interest in Alonso’s success has increased dramatically in recent weeks.


So, last week, when his Leverkusen team destroyed the Bundesliga powerhouse Bayern 3-0 to seize firm control of the title race, the 2005 Champions League victor chose the ideal occasion to present his coaching abilities to the larger European football community.


Alonso didn’t so much announce himself to the world as a manager that evening as it was the night he got out his megaphone and did it in a way that would have made Wall Street’s own Wolf, Jordan Belfort, blush. “I won’t f****** be going!” First place, that is.


“I’m sure he would be on Liverpool’s radar if this were another manager playing for Leverkusen this season,” claims Jamie Carragher. He wasn’t just a fantastic player; you could tell right away that he loved football when he was at Liverpool. I believe that has really benefited him because he has always been interested in tactics and had a great understanding of football at a young age.


This kind of brazen, unwavering display against the Bundesliga’s undeniable champions brought back memories of 2011, when Bayern was soundly defeated by Borussia Dortmund, the last team to defeat them in the top division.


After losing 3-1 to the manager of Dortmund, a certain Jurgen Klopp, in February 2011, they were practically lining up at the Allianz to declare their guests the new German champions, as BVB won their first away game against Bayern in 19 years.


Following that match, Klopp is alleged to have joked, “Most of my boys were still being breast-fed then,” in response to the local media’s depiction of Bayern as “driftwood in a sea of yellow and black.” The most original observation of the day, though, came from Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke, who insisted that he “couldn’t give a s*** about the championship today” because he was “too happy with the way we played.”


Thirteen years later, it might have been worthwhile to pull out that direct, concise synopsis to illustrate how Alonso’s side had also outclassed their esteemed guests. Die Werskelf has only four draws in their 21 league games this season, which helps them to stay undefeated.


They set a club record with 22 wins from 35 games in 2023, and as of mid-February, they are still playing at a high level. Their satirical moniker has shifted from Neverkusen to Neverlosen for a reason, and the BayArena is undoubtedly the site of construction. This is not an isolated incident.



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European football writer for The Athletic Seb Stafford-Bloor says, “If you look at the summer recruitment and how that has suited Alonso, that’s a good example [of how he works with his sporting director].” Arriving were Xhaka, Hofmann, and Grimaldo, as the team desired a distinct dynamic in the locker room. Alonso and Simon Rolfes, the sporting director, selected each of those players, and their usage and importance over the course of the season show how well suited they are to one another.


Under Alonso’s guidance, players who had previously been written off elsewhere in Europe, like Granit Xhaka (Arsenal), Jeremie Frimpong (Celtic), and Nathan Tella (Southampton), have proven those assessments were untimely. Timothy Tapsoba and Jonathan Tah, together, form a formidable defensive tandem that has helped Bayer record a league low of just 14 goals conceded.


The Belgian team Union Saint-Gilloise has produced ten-goal striker Victor Boniface, who has been a true find. Meanwhile, Anfield scouts have reportedly been watching Ecuadorian defender Piero Hincapie because of his own play.


Florian Wirtz is the quick-witted creative pivot, and Alex Grimaldo, who scored his eighth goal of the year in the victory over Bayern, has been a revelation as an adventurous, free-spirited left wing-back. In all of this, it is impossible to overstate his return following a cruciate ligament rupture.


Though many players have had outstanding campaigns, there’s a sense that a lot of it has been orchestrated by Alonso’s tactical ingenuity. His astute and measured observations as a head coach have stayed faithful to the kind of elegant, ball-playing style that helped establish his reputation as a player.


Alonso has been a student of many great players. It was Rafa Benitez at Liverpool, Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich, and Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid. During a period when his playing and coaching careers overlapped, Alonso, one of the more intelligent midfielders in an era where the elegant possession-based approach more popular throughout Spain was replaced by the relentless pressing of German influence, watched and learned as the game changed. It seems as though his ideals have been lifted from one lane and placed at the same intersection as a result.


“I think that can only help any manager with their different experiences in different countries and different styles of football,” Carragher says to the ECHO. He’s had all the best managers of the modern era, when you consider that his father was also a manager or player. As a result, football has always been a part of his life, and the clubs he has played for have produced managers and players of the highest caliber.


He was a thinking man’s player who relied more on his intellect than on his physical prowess. Therefore, I believe that before he demonstrated his abilities as a great manager, some may have believed he had what it took to be a top manager.


In an effort to give the opposition more time on the ball against a more compact defense that closed the gaps behind their midfield, Alonso’s first formation change as manager came in October 2022. As a result, the team made fewer concessions before working to use the pace of players like Mitchell Bakker and now-Aston Villa’s Moussa Diaby to become a more effective unit in the closing third.


It is the speed and execution in those transitions that will be most recognisable to Liverpool supporters, with the Reds regarded as one of the most devastating around when those spaces open up. A major factor in the turnaround was also playmaker Wirtz’s return.


Leverkusen leads the 96 teams in Europe’s top five leagues this season in passes-per-game (683), short passes (646), and short pass percentage (95%), and they rank second in 10-pass sequences (22.6). All of this points to a coach who, like Guardiola at Manchester City, crowns possession as king.


“It shouldn’t surprise you that there is a Pep Guardiola influence when you think about his background and where he comes from, the teams he played for,” claims Carragher. Pep is a huge influence on everyone in football, especially Spanish players, I would imagine. He had that effect at Bayern for a few seasons.


“You consider the times when Spain won the World Cup (2010) and the 2008 and 2012 European Championships; those were also the times when Barcelona (under Guardiola) was at its best. That he is similar to Pep shouldn’t come as a surprise because they were so dominant that football was practically copied by everyone.


According to Bundesliga expert Stafford-Bloor, “Alonso has spoken about Guardiola’s influence before, so [they are similar] to some extent.” However, I believe that there are distinctions. For example, Alonso uses Jeremie Frimpong in a more forceful manner. His ability to make room for his own players, such as Wirtz, is also different from what one might anticipate from a Guardiola squad.


“Leverkusen has a lot of ball patience. They are not very intense, but they are good at pressing. There are many parallels, but Alonso’s approach seems a little looser; his players seem to express themselves a little more and their move-building isn’t quite as methodical.


But Alonso’s ties to Anfield, which date back to the mid-to-late 2000s, are unavoidable. In addition to winning the FA Cup and Champions League in 2005 and 2006, he was a key member of the squad that lost to AC Milan in the 2007 European Cup final but came very close to winning the Premier League two years later.


Carragher continues, “Liverpool fans aren’t stupid; they saw what he was about and fell in love with him right away as a player.” “He is a good guy, down to earth who doesn’t get too carried away,” the person said. “When he came, he moved into the center and into the Albert Dock and wanted to immerse himself in the city.”


Alonso was a fan favorite from the start, winning over Liverpool’s supporters with his velvet glove to Steven Gerrard’s steel fist in the middle of Benitez’s midfield after his 2004 transfer from Real Sociedad. That will undoubtedly give him the wave of support that any new manager will require, whoever takes over for Klopp; a manager who leaves as a legendary figure, regardless of what transpires from now until the end of the season.


Stafford-Bloor asserts, “I believe it is nearly impossible to succeed Klopp.” Does Alonso possess the same capacity for empathy? Will he emulate Klopp’s interactions with the Anfield crowd? No.


That kind of persona is not at all what he seems to be. Although he seems a little more stoic, he is nevertheless quite remarkable and exudes a clear gravitas. He has very good communication skills, speaks German and English fluently, and is well-liked by other players due to his accomplishments in the game.


In an interview from 2018, the man stated, “Yes, without a doubt, I have dreamt of [managing Liverpool].” But first, I have to get ready and prove myself. I have to prove myself and get ready first, but if I decide to take a chance as a manager later on, my connection, my dedication, and my love for Liverpool are still there, so why not? We’ll check to see if our paths can intersect.


Given his strong candidacy to succeed Klopp later in the season, it’s possible that their paths will still intersect sooner rather than later. And in the interim, Liverpool will undoubtedly be keeping an eye on things over at Leverkusen and progressively forgetting about that 2002 match.


What might occur if Xabi Alonso took over as Liverpool manager in place of Jurgen Klopp was forewarned.

Xabi Alonso has already hinted that he might succeed Jurgen Klopp as manager of Liverpool.

The “modern” and “beautiful” Dunelm £12 ceiling light with “stunning effect” that fits easily

Since Steven Gerrard has an advantage over Xabi Alonso, I hope he replaces Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool.

Jurgen Klopp is not pleased that Liverpool may have to make a difficult decision due to the “blue card” sin bin rule.

Adhere to Liverpool Echo

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