Xabi Alonso saw the funny side...

Xabi Alonso falling for Granit Xhaka’s injury fake-out celebration was absolutely priceless

Everything seems to be perfectly falling in place for Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen right now.

With every passing week, the perennial runners-up look like shaking off their historic Neverkusen tag to actually go and do it this time.

This is a club that have never won the Bundesliga, but finished runners-up on five occasions. They’ve won the DfB Pokal just once, losing a further three finals, while their most famous hour was losing the 2002 Champions League final to Real Madrid and that Zizou volley.

Leverkusen could have a fifty-point lead at the summit of the Bundesliga and their long-suffering fans would be justified in having caution until they’re mathematically over the line. Having witnessed heartbreak after heartbreak, a kind of fatalism sets in whereby you’re just waiting for the moment that the wheels finally fall off.

For a few heart-stopping seconds in Friday night’s 2-1 victory over Mainz, that moment looked like it might have arrived. Granit Xhaka opened the scoring after just two minutes and wheeled away to celebrate, before pulling up and doing an Oscar-worthy impression of a player that’s just done his hammy. The hobbling hop. The pained expression.

The former Arsenal man has been absolutely pivotal in Leverkusen’s transformation into a relentless winning machine. The best midfielder in the Bundesliga this season. A genuinely mature leader at the heart of everything they’re building. A player they simply can’t afford to lose.

Cue Alonso on the touchline gesturing to his physios. Before quickly realising this was all a brilliantly choreographed ruse. A wry smile appearing on the Basque coach’s face as he realises it was all a false alarm and his ship remains on course for glory.

Xabi Alonso’s reaction to Granit Xhaka’s fake injury celebration
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But for all the fun and games with the celebrations, both the Leverkusen boss and his star midfielder remain steadfastly focused on the task at hand.

There was no going off-script in their post-match media appearances – with grounded answers straight out of the AI-generated Football Manager stock answer playbook.

“We deserve to be where we are,” Xhaka said after the final whistle.

“When you are eight points, now 11 points, ahead of second-place Bayern, there is a lot to lose. But we’ll keep working day by day, game by game, stay positive, and I’m sure we’ll be able to keep getting our wins.”

“It wasn’t our best game, but the three points are very important,” said Alonso.

“We can enjoy the weekend and then we’ll move on. You cannot always play brilliantly.

“It was a very intense match. Mainz came with very good energy, which we had to respect. We were prepared for it, but it was not easy.”

Alonso continued to straight-bat questions away about his future, now that Bayern Munich have emerged as a contender for his signature in the summer. This wasn’t an act; you believe him when he says that he’s completely focused on Leverkusen’s run-in.

And why wouldn’t he be? He’s on the cusp of greatness. Last night his side moved 11 points clear at the Bundesliga summit. They’re into the semis of the German Cup and are by some distance the best side still in it. They have a favourable draw – Qarabag – in the Europa League and a meeting with Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool looks increasingly written in the stars.

Leverkusen are the only remaining unbeaten side in Europe. Last night they set a new German record for the longest run without defeat in all competitions. Leverkusen may be anything but proven winners but how can you not believe that multiple trophies are on the horizon?

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