Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen: Bundesliga title beyond expectations but management success is no surprise | Football News

Nobody could have anticipated Bayer Leverkusen’s season so far but Xabi Alonso being a success is no surprise; with insight from Claudio Pizarro, we examine why; watch Bayer Leverkusen vs Bayern Munich live on Sky Sports Football on Saturday; kick-off 5.30pm

By Adam Bate, Comment and Analysis @ghostgoal

When Xabi Alonso retired, the messages from football’s great and good poured in. One from Pep Guardiola stood out. “Enjoy your time off,” he said. “But I bet that in six months you will be desperate to begin preparing for life as a coach.”

Everybody knew Alonso would be a manager.

A look at how Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen set up and what makes them so good

Speaking last season to Simon Rolfes, Bayer Leverkusen’s sporting director, about the characteristics that attracted him to the idea of Alonso, he narrowed in on the importance of this personality trait. “Xabi is also a Basque and they are workers,” he said.

A stereotype, no doubt, but one that is being reinforced, nevertheless, by the presence of Mikel Arteta and Unai Emery towards the top of the Premier League table. Alonso is a worker to his core but he has added layers on his travels. They can all see it.

Claudio Pizarro wore the No 14 shirt for Bayern Munich and that put him on a collision course with Alonso, who had worn it at Liverpool and Real Madrid. It was the subject of their first conversation. “He said that we needed to talk about the number,” says Pizarro.

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Alonso had to wait a year for the shirt but Pizarro remembers their season together fondly. He saw a manager in waiting. “We knew. Everybody who played with him knew. He was always directing people and talking to the players. He was a good leader.”

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