Xabi Alonso is being talked up as the next great manager of European football, and it’s not difficult to see why when you listen to the way his players rhapsodise about his coaching and man-management.
The early favourite to succeed Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, Alonso’s reputation has skyrocketed after turning Bayer Leverkusen into a winning machine this season. They’re ahead of Bayern Munich at the summit of the Bundesliga table and are the only side across Europe’s big five leagues that still remains unbeaten.
We’ve picked out seven quotes from players that have worked under Alonso about what makes him special.
“Xabi was an unbelievable midfielder. He won everything except the Europa League – because he never played Europa League,” said the former Arsenal midfielder, who also said Alonso is the reason he signed for Leverkusen last summer.
“But he’s an example of a new generation of coaching I think. He’s not only in the meetings and [in front of] the tactical board, but he’s showing himself.
“Passing for example. His passing is going on social media and of course it’s a different feeling when you are his player because you see what he means.
— Bayer 04 Leverkusen (@bayer04_en) January 8, 2024
“He’s an incredible coach with a lot of passion for what he does,” the Spanish full-back told the official Bundesliga website.
“I really wanted to work with him given the player he was. And now seeing him as a coach, he inspires every day with his passion and ideas, how he passes them on, and he’s taking Leverkusen upwards.”
“He’s a coach who’s obsessed [with tactics],” the Argentinian World Cup winner told the official Bundesliga website.
“He always wants more. You see in every training session that if he sees you’re switched off or relaxed, he quickly tries to switch you on so you focus on what’s going on in training. I think he’s a coach with a lot of potential. He’s only just started but I think he has a big future as a coach, and he’s making everyone aware of that here.”
“You can look at our performances and see that our style has changed,” Frimpong told Revelo.
“He is a great coach, he came and gave us new energy, it was a fresh start. Everyone wanted to impress. When he arrived it was like we forgot about the start of the season and we focused on improving because there was still a lot of the season left.
“We have changed our style of play, our way of getting the ball out. Everything adapts more to us. And we all understand how we play, how we press and that kind of thing.
“He is very understanding with the footballer and very talkative with all of us. When he explains something, he explains it until you understand it. For example, if in training you don’t understand the reason for an exercise, spend time so that we all understand it. As a player, that makes you feel very comfortable, you know you can ask him things.”
“I feel extremely valued under him,” the rising star said.
“I feel the trust. That’s really important, especially as a young player. He gives me a lot of freedom on the pitch and always has a tip on what I can do better.”
“He played at the very highest level as a professional. It’s great to have such a legend as a coach. Xabi knows exactly what makes a team tick.”
“He was at the top as a player, winning pretty much everything you can win: Champions League with Real and Liverpool, the World and European Championship titles with Spain,” Boniface said to Sportbuzzer via Spox
“And he played under three of the best coaches: Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola. Like these coaches, he is a strategist who understands the game down to the smallest facet.
“But he is also a fighter and always demands 100 per cent from us.”
“I wasn’t even with him a full season because of the pandemic but those were lovely months,” Real Sociedad star Zubimendi, who came through playing under Alonso, told The Guardian.
“It was when he came that I started playing more; with Xabi, I got a run of games. I could feel the affection he had for me, which maybe comes from having the same position. He made a point of trying to show me things, teaching me.
“With him, I learned to recognise and differentiate [types of] presses, overcoming them. Before then, I played the way that more or less came naturally. With him I started to truly understand concepts for bringing the ball out, building play. He insisted a lot on the analysis. We would walk it through, inflatables positioned where the opposition would be.”