Alonso to stay on as Leverkusen boss amid interest from Bayern and Liverpool

Published March 30, 2024
Bayer Leverkusen’s Spanish head coach Xabi Alonso arrives prior to the German first division Bundesliga football match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Mainz 05 in Leverkusen, western Germany on February 23, 2024. Xabi Alonso, who was seen by many as Liverpool’s top target to replace Jurgen Klopp as their manager, said on March 29, 2024 he is staying at Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen next season.—AFP/file
Bayer Leverkusen’s Spanish head coach Xabi Alonso arrives prior to the German first division Bundesliga football match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Mainz 05 in Leverkusen, western Germany on February 23, 2024. Xabi Alonso, who was seen by many as Liverpool’s top target to replace Jurgen Klopp as their manager, said on March 29, 2024 he is staying at Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen next season.—AFP/file

MUNICH: Bayer Leverkusen boss Xabi Alonso ended speculation of a potential move to one of his former clubs Liverpool or Bayern Munich in the close season when the Spaniard said on Friday that he was committed to staying with the Bundesliga leaders.

Alonso, who has a contract with Leverkusen until 2026, has become the talk of Europe and a reported target for top clubs after leading his team through an unbeaten season while challenging for three trophies.

“It’s been a season with a lot of speculation regarding my future. We’ve had many games, we’ve been busy and focused. I used the international break to reflect better and take a decision,” Alonso told reporters.

“Last week I had a meeting [with club officials] and informed them of the decision to continue being coach of Bayer Leverkusen... I feel this is the right place to be for me as a young coach.”

Alonso had been linked with the Liverpool and Bayern jobs, with both their coaches leaving at the end of the season.

In January, Liverpool boss Juergen Klopp anno­unced his decision to step down from his position at the end of the current campaign while Bayern said they were cutting short Thomas Tuchel’s stint despite a contract until 2025.

“It wouldn’t be correct for me to speak about other clubs in this situation. They are clubs I respect, I played there, I have strong links to them, but it’s not correct for me to speak about them right now,” Alonso added.

“It’s more about the conviction I have that I am in the right place, at Bayer Leverkusen, that I want to keep growing with the club and the

players.”

Klopp said he could relate to Alonso’s decision to stay at Leverkusen and develop the team.

“I did the same and never regretted it. Xabi is doing an incredible job at Leverkusen,” the German manager said. “He will probably keep the team together this year, it’s not always like that. I understand he wants to do that.”

Alonso joined Leverkusen in October 2022 when the club was mired in a relegation battle, eventually turning things around and leading them to a sixth-placed finish to qualify for the Europa League and earn a contract extension until 2026.

This season, he has guided Leverkusen to the top of the Bundesliga where they are 10 points clear of reigning champions Bayern with

eight games left while they are also unbeaten in 38 matches in all competitions — a German record.

“We are in a situation that we have to enjoy. We have two months to go, it will be really intense and demanding. We need to give our best and it was good I took the decision last week, that was the deadline for sure,” Alonso added.

“Once I had taken the decision, the most important thing was to share it with everyone and give them back the respect they showed me — the fans, my staff, the players. I informed the players this morning during the team talk.

“We are not going to speculate about the future [anymore], we’ve speculated enough. What I want is to enjoy where I am and now I’m enjoying [my time] at Leverkusen.”

Leverkusen have won only two major trophies in their 120-year history but the Bundesliga leaders are fighting on three fronts this season.

Alonso’s side also moved into the semi-finals of the German Cup as well as the quarter-finals of the Europa League.

Alonso, who started his playing career as a midfielder at Real Sociedad, made his mark at Liverpool before moving to Real Madrid. He won the Champions League title with both clubs.

Having also made more than 100 appearances for Spain, winning the World Cup in 2010 and the European Championship in 2008 and 2012, he finished his playing career at Bayern, retiring in 2017 before making the switch to coaching.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2024

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