Xabi Alonso spent years stealing our hearts with sublime passes and his brilliant facial hair, but has decided that wasn’t enough and is now carving a path to stardom as an elite manager, too.
Seriously, at what point is one person simply too gifted and talented? We need the world’s smartest scientists to bash their heads together and figure out a way to share the talent around us.
Having said that, perspective is everything. For every major honour Alonso won or every inch-perfect, line-splitting pass worthy of a place in the Louvre that he played, we’ve had a greasy takeaway or a session of binge drinking to match. Yeah, have that Xabi. Not so sophisticated now, are you?
But while we all collectively plough hours and hours into Football Manager in between the binge drinking and takeaway devouring, the legendary Spaniard has spent his time in recent years honing his craft and continuing the ‘elite number six into manager’ trend.
Not only is he continuing it, though, he’s flying the flag high for deep-lying playmakers-turned-managers across the globe.
After their flying start to the 2023-24 season, it’s very quickly become way too mainstream to be a fan of Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen. Just because they aren’t catering towards us tote-bag wielding vintage clothes shop losers anymore, however, doesn’t mean they aren’t tearing it up. Because they are.
We’ve talked once already this season about how impressive they’ve been, but Alonso’s side have now taken it to dizzying new heights.
In fact, it’s quite sickening how bloody good Leverkusen become under Alonso in the space of approximately 12 months.
Upon taking over in October 2022, he inherited a side second-bottom in the Bundesliga after eight games. Just over a year on, it’s not a stretch to say they’re arguably the most complete, well-drilled and dangerous team in Europe.
Boasting a mammoth 23-game unbeaten run in all competitions so far this season, Alonso’s side are mounting a genuine title challenge to Bayern Munich atop of the Bundesliga and are blitzing their way through the Europa League, finishing their group stage campaign with six wins from six, 19 goals scored and just three conceded.
The icing on the cake of all that success is the football they play; the perfect blend between beautiful and ruthless. Molde felt the full force of it as they were hammered 6-1 and served a lesson in Alonso-ball, Leverkusen scoring a goal about as close to perfection one can get.
Xabi Alonso has got Bayer Leverkusen 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐲𝐢𝐧𝐠 👏
— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) December 14, 2023
Total football. It’s mesmerising.
Molde are out of the game from the very first pass. It’s like a hot knife through butter.
Leverkusen bait the press, only to slice their way through it with a string of passes so vertical that your xG-obsessed son doesn’t even have an answer for it, before bursting into the opposition half and putting the gloss on a truly sublime move.
It gets better with every watch, too. To see the game like that is one thing, but to be able to coach it effectively into a group of players for them to be pulling it off so consistently at the top level is frightening. Alonso has to be superhuman, because he’s well and truly fried our brains.
There’s a long way to go in his incredibly young coaching career, but that’s what makes this journey of Alonso-ball so special. We’re not anywhere near its final form and it’s already the most devastating brand of football in Europe right now.
Just like when he was a player, the sky is the limit for the Spaniard.
By Mitch Wilks