Xabi Alonso: ‘A man in demand – but replacing Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool is no done deal’

Guillem Balague - BBC Sport column

Xabi Alonso has emerged as hot favourite to become the next Liverpool manager following Jurgen Klopp’s shock decision to leave the club at the end of the season.

A former Anfield favourite – he scored in their Champions League final win in 2005 – Alonso has enjoyed spectacular success at Bayer Leverkusen, who sit two points clear of Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga and are in the knockout stages of the Europa League after an unblemished group-stage campaign.

When he joined the club in October 2022 they were second from bottom after eight Bundesliga games. Just 26 games later they finished in sixth place and in Europe.But Liverpool are not the only club casting an avaricious eye over the man who is currently one of the hottest managerial properties. Real Madrid, Bayern Munich (both of whom he also played for with great distinction) and even Manchester City where Pep Guardiola might not extend his stay past the end of next season, will also be looking closely at the situation.And despite bookmakers offering miserly odds which make it look like it is a done deal, it is anything but – and the only certainty is that, ultimately, the decision will be Alonso’s alone.

‘Leverkusen would not stand in the way’

The former Spain international, who has recently turned 42, has two and a half years left on his Bayer Leverkusen contract.Leverkusen have always told Alonso, both privately and publicly, they would not stand in his way if a chance to join one of the elite clubs in Europe came his way. There is no buy-out clause in his contract.Nothing has changed. His plan has always been the same. The idea has always been that if things went well then the likes of Real Madrid and Liverpool would be a possible next step, while if things went less well then there would always be the chance of returning to his hometown of San Sebastian and Real Sociedad.In fact, after taking his apprenticeship with Real Sociedad B side Sanse, Alonso might well have graduated to the job as first-team coach had it not been for the excellent job current incumbent Imanol Alguacil had done, and continues to do.Circumstances have now also brought Bayern Munich into the picture as well as Manchester City, although it is way off the mark to suggest that all any of the top clubs have to do is knock on his door and he will come running.His long-term managerial plan goes even further back to when he was still playing.Alonso was very much a coach and fan favourite at Real Madrid when he decided to leave them to join Bayern Munich in 2014, and where he would play his last three seasons before retiring as a player.It was a decision that surprised many, although it was one he took so he could learn more about coaching under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola as well as become fluent in German, something which is standing him in good stead these days.Within four months of his arrival at the club he was giving his first interview in German. Focus and dedication to the task in hand, whatever that might be, has characterised wherever he has been, both as a player and a coach.

‘A hands-on coach rather than a manager’

As a player, as well as learning from Guardiola, Alonso soaked up from the very best including Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Rafael Benitez, and knows how to put his ideas across to players. He is very much an interventionist, a hands-on coach rather than a manager.His style as a coach leads him to look to dominate through possession, though he isn’t an evangelical fundamentalist to the idea in the same way that he isn’t joined at the hip to always playing 4-3-3, the favoured line-up of those who see it as the crux of the game.At Leverkusen he swiftly realised it was poor defending that was hurting them most, and his decision to turn to a back three with two players playing just in front of them helped shore things up.It is a system Alonso still uses and now he has a much stronger midfield, capable of playing through into the opposition box.His constant corrections in training mean just about every player has improved both individually and as part of the collective – everyone knows his methodology and what is expected of them.In his relationship with the players he has shades of Ancelotti – friendly, courteous and cordial, though not to the extent where anyone would wonder who was in charge, while much of his defensive strategies have probably been learned from his time with Mourinho.All the players – including stars like Granit Xhaka and Alex Grimaldo – speak very highly of him. These are players that are impressed not just by his CV but by the fact that he has made them better, both individually and also as a part of the team, because they can all see that they are working to a structure, and one that works.

‘He still has unfinished business’

Alonso will know that while things are not going particularly well for Bayern coach Thomas Tuchel at the moment, there is still everything to play for in the Bundesliga this season. He will also be aware that Real Madrid have renewed Ancelotti’s deal until June 2026, and that Guardiola is committed to Manchester City until the end of next season.As far as Liverpool are concerned, Klopp recently said publicly that his assistant Pep Lijnders would make a good replacement.

However, the news coming swiftly after Klopp’s announcement that he along with assistant coach Peter Krawietz and elite development coach Vitor Matos would also be leaving in the summer, coupled with sporting director Jorg Schmadtke exiting at the end of January, suggests there will be a complete changing of the guard at Anfield this summer.But there is still a lot to be discussed and the only certainties are that despite all the talk and speculation, Alonso and Bayer Leverkusen have unfinished business this season – and he will not be affected by the noise.

Alonso, and nobody else, will decide when it is time to leave Bayer Leverkusen.

Watch on iPlayer bannerWatch on iPlayer footer

Source: BBC News

Previous Post

Stormont: DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson to brief members on possible deal

Next Post

Protests as bullfighting returns to Mexico City

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *