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Monday, May 20, 2024

Xabi Alonso: Leverkusen, Liverpool or Bayern Munich – what next for the Spaniard?

Once the dust settles on the news that Thomas Tuchel will leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season, all eyes will inevitably turn to one man: Xabi Alonso.

Come the summer the Spaniard will be a man in demand – and a man with a decision to make.

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Alonso is on the verge of creating history with Bayer Leverkusen. Dubbed ‘Neverkusen’ for finishing second in the Bundesliga five times, the Westphalian club are seemingly on course to break their duck and win the title.

They sit eight points clear with 12 games to go and remain the only club in Europe’s top-five leagues yet to lose a game this season having reached the Europa League round of 16 and the semi-finals of the DFB-Pokal.

His achievements have obviously not gone unnoticed with three clubs he excelled at during a glittering playing career – Real Madrid, Bayern and Liverpool – all on the look-out for a new coach come season’s end.

So, what will Alonso do? Here, we examine his options:

STAY AT LEVERKUSEN

Arguably the least likely scenario but, assuming Leverkusen win the Bundesliga this season, the 42-year-old may fancy taking the club into the Champions League while also attempting to go back-to-back domestically.

The team he has built in just 16 months is full of young players that he perhaps feels he can mould into a major force in Europe.

His contract at the BayArena runs until 2026 but it has been widely reported that he has a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that he can leave in the summer should one of Madrid, Liverpool or Bayern come knocking.

Leverkusen are confident he will stay with the club’s sporting director Simon Rolfes explaining why. He told Doppelpass: “One is the contract, the other is how comfortable he feels, the family, himself. 

“That he knows what he has at the club. That he knows that he has a very good team and that we will also have very good prospects next year.”

Rolfes is right: Alonso has everything he needs in Leverkusen, and his position will be strengthened further if he does win silverware this season. 

But a club like Leverkusen will always be a stepping stone for those who are successful. Alonso is comfortable at big clubs, and won’t be put off by a challenge. The smart money will be on him walking away. The question is where?

JOIN BAYERN MUNICH

Should he decide to move on, he has a straight choice to make: Bayern or Liverpool?

In terms of a working environment, Bayern would be the riskier choice. As Tuchel has found this season, success at the Allianz Arena is not a given with the club set to miss out on the Bundesliga title for the first time in 12 years.

That creates levels of scrutiny not found at many clubs across Europe. Bayern is regularly compared to a soap opera and, although Alonso’s calm demeanour may negate some of those issues, certainly when compared to the more combustible Tuchel, it doesn’t necessarily seem a natural fit.

Alonso would also inherit an ageing squad with the likes of Manuel Neuer, Thomas Müller and Joshua Kimmich – cornerstones of their success over the past decade – either nearing the end of their careers or, in Kimmich’s case, potentially fancying a new challenge.

Alonso may view a rebuild with Bayern’s resources an appealing prospect but that relies on the expertise of a recruitment team that hasn’t excelled in recent windows.

JOIN LIVERPOOL

On first glance, Liverpool appears the safer bet. However, there are issues here as well.

Firstly, he has to replace a legend in Jurgen Klopp – a man who has led Liverpool back to a position of regularly challenging for the game’s top honours, and a man who is adored by the Kop not just for his football but also his personality.

Ask David Moyes how easy it was to replace Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

Secondly, he’ll enter a league that, no matter how good you are, it may not be good enough. Manchester City could well win their fourth successive Premier League title in a few months’ time. Over the past three seasons, City have averaged a shade under 90 points. The margin of error is minuscule, a situation that is unlikely to change while Pep Guardiola remains in residence at the Etihad.

There are, of course, plenty of positives to Alonso joining Liverpool.

The position comes with scrutiny, of course, but it is vastly different to the hysteria that follows every Bayern defeat. Liverpool are not known for a trigger-happy approach.

He will also take over a squad that Klopp rebuilt just last summer. The likes of Ibrahima Konate, Darwin Nunez, Conor Bradley, Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai all have their best years ahead of them while there is plenty of life left in the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alisson and Luis Diaz.

VERDICT

Alonso is a smart man. Bayern would be a short-term move. When Tuchel walks away – and that’s assuming he’ll make it to May – Bayern would have burned through four coaches in six years.

Liverpool will allow him time and the opportunity to build on Klopp’s platform. Yes, they are tough boots to fill but Alonso is unlikely to be fazed. 

Expect to see him at Anfield come June.

Jon Fisher
Jon Fisher
Jon has over 20 years' experience in sports journalism having worked at the Press Association, Goal and Stats Perform, covering three World Cups, an Olympics and numerous other major sporting events.
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