For a long time it was almost assumed that Steven Gerrard would eventually prove to be Jürgen Klopp’s successor at Anfield. However, the recent meteoric rise of one of his former teammates as coach will give those in power at Liverpool food for thought.
It is no exaggeration to suggest that the eventual departure of the current Liverpool chief is likely to provoke as strong a reaction from Merseyside as Bill Shankly’s departure did nearly half a century ago. Reds supporters hope their charismatic manager remains at Anfield for many years to come, but it also wouldn’t hurt the club to have a succession plan in place should the German coach come to an end at the end of this current contract in 2026.
One name the Liverpool owners may be keeping a close eye on for a future vacancy is Xabi Alonso. The former Kop favorite has made quite an impression since taking over as Bayer Leverkusen head coach in October. The 41-year-old completely turned the Bundesliga club’s fortunes around in his first season and is quickly establishing a reputation as one of Europe’s brightest coaching prospects.
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After three years in charge of second tier youth club Real Sociedad, the former midfielder decided to try his hand at senior management and take over the hotseat at the Bay Arena as his new club languished at a lowly 17th in the table. However, fast-forward some seven months and it is clear that the Spaniard has made a big impact in the intervening period, with the club now seventh in the table. – tied with sixth-placed Wolfsburg – and reaching the semi-finals of the Europa League, where they narrowly missed out on a place in the final Roma by Jose Mourinho.
Given their struggles prior to Alonso’s arrival, it was clear that changes had to be made from a tactical point of view to Die Werkself back to ways to win. In an exclusive interview with liverpool.com, German football pundit Raphael Honigstein gave his take on how the former Liverpool man has turned things around so quickly.
“It’s actually a bit too early to say what his style of football is as it involves a lot of different influences from the coaches. [he has played under],” he explained.
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“The first thing he did is really stop the bleeding and look at the defensive set-up. Leverkusen was quite defensive and pragmatic in the beginning and [used to] play a lot during the break, where they are also effective because they have such a pace up front.
“You can see he’s trying little by little to add more elements and a more complete picture will emerge. I think next season he’s had a whole pre-season working with these guys and with one or two changes.” come in too.”
What struck Honigstein most is the way the former Real Madrid player behaved on the training pitch, but also during matches.– with the journalist who experienced this first hand. As a result, he claims it is only a matter of time before some of the continent’s elite clubs start to take an interest in the Leverkusen head coach.
“It’s a bit too early to tactically categorize him to say ‘he’s that type of manager’. But what isn’t too early? [to say] and what can be seen is that he has a very strong, natural authority and charisma that is respected by the players for what he has done [in the game] and also how he acts.
“Even [with] little things like playing on the pitch quite regularly and showing them how to do it, it’s just pretty impressive.
“I was lucky enough to see him in training and he is also someone who I think many clubs can see as a potential leader or figurehead for their club because he is so sweet, multilingual and has so much experience working at some of the biggest clubs in the world It’s no exaggeration to say he’s going to go very, very far – The only question for me is how soon will that happen!”
Earlier this month, Alonso faced his former coach Mourinho in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final as Leverkusen took on AS Roma, the latter winning 1-0 at home. — the Italian side would book their place in the final after the second leg finished goalless. Honigstein was on hand to watch the first match at the Stadio Olimpico and was impressed by Alonso’s presence on the sidelines and his dealings with the press after the match.
He recalled: “During the game you could tell he looked very calm. He looked like he belonged to that stadium, which of course he does because he’s played in the biggest games possible and won them, whether that be the world championships.” Cup or Champions League.
“He didn’t seem impressed by the occasion or by [facing] Jose Mourinho — who often does very well in cup competitions — on the other hand. He was very well behaved in the post match interview and immediately framed the second leg in a positive way, trying to get the story under control.
“He’s doing all the things you’d expect a really good manager to do. I think because he’s learned so much from the [coaches he has worked with], he will – as a very intelligent man – have learned many lessons. He’s putting them into action now and it’s a very interesting journey to watch!”
In recent times, Alonso has been linked with a possible move to managerless Tottenham Hotspur, but the former midfield maestro seemingly pulled out of the running earlier this month to replace Antonio Conte. He distanced himself from the post, stating: “Rumors are normal, but we still have a lot to achieve. That’s why my head is 100 percent here for the past few months. And my head is also 100 percent here for next season.”
For the time being, Honigstein adds that he expects Alonso to focus on his development as a coach in the Bundesliga, away from the pressures that come with taking charge of a top Premier League or Champions League club.
He claimed: “I think he will be very smart and take a measured approach and stay at Leverkusen for at least one more season, test himself – ideally in the Champions League if they win the Europa League, which would be a huge achievement. are.” performance – and learn the trade at a club that is not under too much pressure but has great potential.
“Than [he may] putting himself in a position where he is ready to take the helm at a true superclub. Then I think Real Madrid, Liverpool and a few others will come into play very soon.”
You can sense that the former Anfield hero’s services will be in high demand for years to come as he continues his rise as a coach over the coming seasons. Klopp will certainly stay at Liverpool for the foreseeable future, but Alonso’s rise is certainly worth keeping an eye on.
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