Tactical Insights

Xabi Alonso includes Barcelona, Real Madrid and Liverpool icons in ‘ideal manager’

Bayer Leverkusen manager Xabi Alonso is undoubtedly the rising star in coaching in European football. Turning down Bayern Munich and Liverpool this summer, a feat not too many can boast, let alone in the space of a few weeks, many expect him to be the next manager at the Santiago Bernabeu once Carlo Ancelotti leaves Real Madrid.

It’s been remarked upon on a number of occasions that Alonso benefitted from an array of top managers during his time at the three clubs mentioned above, as well as Eibar, Real Sociedad and with Spain. Asked by Movistar+ what he would take from the coaches he had in his career, the incredible range he has been exposed to was in evidence.

“I have learned a lot from all my coaches and I have transformed it into my own personality as a coach who is starting out. Rafa [Benitez] is football, tactics: how to fit in, how to help, what to do… Pep [Guardiola] tells you – ‘We are going to play like this and this is going to happen.’ From Mourinho I highlight his strength and intelligence in communicating. From Luis [Aragones] I am left with the conviction and being able to define what it is you wanted. [Vicente] Del Bosque taught me to worry the right amount about the things you have to worry about. Ancelotti excelled at conveying what good football is and what we had to do.”

He describes himself as a chameleonic manager, and puts his ability to adapt down to his experience in different leagues and countries.

“What you do is mould yourself. You identify with one person, with another, but always within your character,” he told Marca. Alonso also formed a special connection with Jose Mourinho while at Real Madrid, competing against Guardiola’s Barcelona – “I defended Mourinho because I have always defended all my coaches.”

Certainly it’s a strategy that is working out so far. Many had predicted he would be an excellent manager, but few imagined quite how quickly his success would come after he left Real Sociedad B two seasons ago. Alonso will lead Leverkusen into the Champions League next season, and stands a decent chance of returning to Spain, where all but two of the managers he names are from.

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