'Right step' for Alonso to take over at Leverkusen

AFP , Thursday 6 Oct 2022

New Bayer Leverkusen manager Xabi Alonso said the time was right to move into first-team management, after being officially unveiled as Bayer Leverkusen's new coach on Thursday.

Xabi Alonso attends a news conference of German Bundesliga soccer club Bayer 04 Leverkusen in Leverk
Xabi Alonso attends a news conference of German Bundesliga soccer club Bayer 04 Leverkusen in Leverkusen, Germany, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022.. AP


Speaking at a press conference after replacing sacked manager Gerardo Seoane, Alonso said he was "highly motivated" to give the team "a fresh start".

In March 2021, Alonso was heavily linked with the vacant position at Bundesliga rivals Borussia Moenchengladbach, but he knocked back the interest in favour of extending his contract coaching Real Sociedad's second team.

"I've been waiting for the right moment and I have the feeling it is the right moment," the former Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid midfielder said.

"I am happy to be here."

Alonso helped Real Sociedad B get promoted to the second division for the first time in 50 years, but stepped down in the summer after the team was relegated.

Alonso, who played three seasons at Bayern before retiring in 2017, introduced himself in German before switching to English.

"I trained to be a coach one day. Now, I dared to take this step because it feels like the right step.

"I feel ready for it."

- 'Modern football' -

Alonso, who won three Bundesliga titles with Bayern along with two Champions League crowns with Liverpool and Real Madrid promised to infuse Leverkusen with a winning mentality.

"We want to play modern football, intensively, with and without the ball. And we need a great winning mentality."

Despite being one of Germany's regular Champions League participants, Leverkusen have never won the Bundesliga in their history, with their five second-placed finishes prompting the nickname "Neverkusen".

Swiss manager Seoane was sacked on Wednesday with his team second from bottom, with just two wins in all competitions this season despite one of the division's best squads.

Alonso said he was aware of the task at hand, particularly in a Bundesliga which was "getting better and better".

Leverkusen sporting director Simon Rolfes, who reportedly sounded out former Chelsea and Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel for the position, said quality was more important than experience.

"It's about whether someone is convinced of a person's quality. It's not about experience or anything else."

"I can still remember that Julian Nagelsmann was 28 when he took over at Hoffenheim.

"Every decision has risks, but it also can create chances."

While Alonso may be relatively inexperienced as a manager, he has long been earmarked for coaching positions -- including by former employers Bayern.

When Alonso retired in 2017, then CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said he wanted to stay in touch with Alonso who was "an absolute role model".

"I can imagine that he might make his way back to Bayern Munich one day."

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