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Dhaka Tribune

Fluidity and class: Alonso’s Leverkusen defy all odds

Alonso will perhaps win more trophies in his coaching career but the glory he brought to the 1,60,000 people of Leverkusen will forever be etched in the history of football as one the most beautiful stories ever

Update : 19 Apr 2024, 10:20 PM

If anyone had said before the start of the season that Bayer Leverkusen would win the league title with five games in hand dismantling Bayern Munich’s 11-year monopoly over the Bundesliga, people would have laughed at their faces.

Xabi Alonso and his players achieved precisely that and with remarkable poise.

Leverkusen were ironically called “Neverkusen” as they had never won the Bundesliga despite coming agonisingly close on a few occasions, especially in 2002 when they bottled the UEFA Champions League final, German Cup final, and Bundesliga crown in just 11 days. 

Alonso had history stacked against him and he rose to the challenge as Leverkusen arguably played the most exciting football in Europe this season.

Their historic 29-game unbeaten league run is already etched in history as Florian Writz and Co demolished Werder Bremen 5-0 to clinch the title.

At the start of the season, we all thought the elephant would eventually fall from the tree but proving us wrong Alonso’s team are on their way to an undefeated season across all competitions.

What makes their triumph so special is that other unfancied teams like Girona and Tottenham Hotspur also occupied top spot for a while but failed to hold onto it and have not come close since. 

Leverkusen’s title triumph is a special achievement which is a fruit of the united effort from the boardroom, coaching staff, players, and most importantly, the fans.

When Alonso took charge of Leverkusen, they were languishing in 17th place in the Bundesliga.

In a year and a half, he has transformed the team completely.

Clever moves in the transfer market also helped make Leverkusen one of the most enterprising sides in world football.

They recruited veterans like Granit Xhaka, Alex Grimaldo, and Jonas Hofmann along with youngsters in Victor Boniface and Nathan Tella, all of whom made an immense impact.

Even when they suffered injuries in the squad Alonso tweaked his system to adapt to the difficult situation.

For instance, when striker Boniface was injured, Tella stepped up to take the burden scoring six goals and providing three assists.

Grimaldo combined for a total of nine goals and 12 assists in just 28 Bundesliga games from the left wing-back position.

Alonso’s trust in his players was telling as 18 of his players racked up over 1,000 minutes which also represents his tactical fluidity as he depended on the different abilities of his players to win matches.

His substitutions have also worked almost always as his team scored 10 goals in the 90th minute and beyond with Patrik Schick alone scoring 11 goals after coming on as a substitute. 

Alonso’s professional coaching career started with a fairytale which is yet to end.

His promise as a coach was foreseen by Jose Mourinho long ago as he said: “He played in Spain, England and Germany. He was coached by (Pep) Guardiola at Bayern, by myself and (Carlo) Ancelotti at Real Madrid, by (Rafael) Benitez at Liverpool. So if you put all this together I think Xabi has the conditions to be a very good coach."

And within five years, Alonso proved him right to create history. 

Alonso will perhaps win more trophies in his career but the glory he brought to the 1,60,000 people of Leverkusen will forever be etched in the history of football as one the most beautiful stories ever.

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