Alonso has Leverkusen cooking this season

Life after Klopp? The goal that proves that Xabi ball can send Anfield into another realm

Liverpool fans know all too well there will never be another Jurgen Klopp.

It’s the kind of connection you can’t replicate. There may yet be further success, some wonderful football and more great memories to come, but whatever comes next won’t be the same.

There’s inevitably and understandably a great deal of anxiety around Anfield about what comes next. Liverpool are by no means the only club that have forged a special bond with a manager who seems to take everything upon their shoulders.

Look at Manchester United after Sir Alex Ferguson. Arsenal after Arsene Wenger. Leeds after Marcelo Bielsa. Tottenham after Mauricio Pochettino. Different degrees of pure misery.

Just like Klopp at Liverpool, they were the project at their respective clubs. It’s so easy to envisage it all come crashing down the minute that Klopp and his coaching staff walk out the door for the final time in the summer.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In the above examples, the clubs were in states of disrepair. Klopp has already taken on a lot of the renovation work and whatever happens in the remaining months of the 2023-24 campaign, will leave the club with a well-balanced squad with a bright-looking future.

“For me it was super, super, super-important that I can help to bring this team back onto the rails,” Klopp said in his leaving announcement.

“It was all I was thinking about. When I realised pretty early that happened, it’s a really good team with massive potential and a super age group, super characters and all that, then I could start thinking about myself again and that was the outcome. It is not what I want to [do], it is just what I think is 100 per cent right.”

It’s also worth considering that Manchester United, Arsenal, Leeds and Tottenham bodged their succession plans as they looked to move on from era-defining coaches. David Moyes, Jesse Marsch and Jose Mourinho were patently the wrong men. Unai Emery might’ve been the right man – but it was the wrong time.

From the force of personality to the dizzying highs of football to the utter shock of the departure, there are lots of parallels between Klopp and Liverpool’s greatest-ever manager, Bill Shankly.

Like Klopp, Shankly left the club in good shape. In fact, it was after Shankly’s departure that the club went on to enjoy their most dominant years, never going two years without a league title between 1975 and 1990 – winning it 10 times in that period alongside a further four European Cups and six domestic cups.

Liverpool nailed it when they appointed Bob Paisley as Shankly’s successor. And they can nail it once again exactly 50 years later. Fans can take a quick look at one of the goals scored by Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen and dream of yet more golden skies.

Full disclosure: possibly to get around copyright detection, or possibly sneakily just to make Leverkusen resemble the cocaine pace of Klopp’s Liverpool at their best, this clip has been considerably sped up.

Unfortunately the players aren’t actually passing or moving that quickly. We’d be worried for their hearts if they were. Still, the clip gives us a neat 20-second introduction of the style that Alonso has instilled so quickly at the BayArena. Proper pass and move football.

“We want to play modern football. That means: intensity with and without the ball, being more active than passive and with a strong mentality,” Alonso told Diario AS.

“The team has to know how we want to play. Dominant, intense, controlled, with a winning mentality and that should be from the first kick-off until the final whistle. I will try to give the players clear instructions and ideas.”

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READ: Nine quotes to explain Xabi Alonso’s philosophy as a manager: Pep, Carra…

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Alonso is doing remarkable things at Leverkusen. Not only are they playing sexy attacking football, but they’re playing winning football too. Not since Klopp’s Dortmund have perennial champions Bayern Munich faced a challenger of this calibre.

Leverkusen are the only remaining unbeaten side across Europe’s major leagues. Not only that but they’re yet to taste defeat in any competition. No side in Europe averages more points and they’re on track to end the campaign on 87 points, which would be one of the highest tallies in Bundesliga history.

The underlying statistics are just as impressive. Alonso’s Leverkusen rank third across Europe’s major leagues for their xG difference per 90 minutes, ahead of the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and PSG.

He’s done this after inheriting a side that sat second-bottom of the Bundesliga. A club that have the fourth-highest wage bill in the Bundesliga, roughly a fifth of Bayern’s, and 32nd across Europe – behind the likes of Nottingham Forest, Fulham and Bournemouth. A squad that costs less to assemble than Championship Leicester.

Back in 2015, Klopp spoke of turning Liverpool from doubters into believers. What better continuation of his legacy than to appoint a man that has turned Bayer Neverkusen into a winning machine.

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