'Strategist' Alonso to make right call on future, says Lahm

AFP , Tuesday 26 Mar 2024

Philipp Lahm backed Bayer Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso on Tuesday to make the right decision on his future, calling his former Bayern Munich teammate "a strategist".

Xabi Alonso
Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso stands before the Bundesliga soccer match between Bayer Leverkusen and SC Freiburg at the Europa-Park Stadium in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, Sunday March 17, 2024. AP

"Xabi Alonso has always been a strategist. You could already predict he was going to become a great coach," Lahm told AFP in an interview.

Lahm played alongside Alonso for three years at Bayern, with both retiring in the summer of 2017.

Lahm is now tournament director for Euro 2024 hosts Germany, while Alonso has since emerged into the hottest coaching property in football.

Alonso's Leverkusen are on track for a first-ever Bundesliga title, sitting 10 points clear of Bayern in the league with eight games remaining.

Unbeaten in all competitions, Leverkusen have made it to the semi-finals of the German Cup and the last eight of the Europa League.

As a result Alonso has been linked to a return to former clubs Bayern and Liverpool, with both sides set to have coaching vacancies this summer.

Lahm said Alonso's on-field smarts were evident not only in his coaching, but in his career progression.

"Xabi was an intelligent player, but is also an intelligent person and that's why I think he is thinking carefully about what his next steps could be.

"Is now the right time (to move on from Leverkusen) or later?

"I'm excited to see (where he goes). I'm sure he'll coach bigger clubs than Leverkusen in his coaching career.

"But I'm also curious about what he's doing. This year, maybe next year?

"I'm curious and excited -- and I just enjoy watching the football he has Leverkusen playing."

- 'Learned from the best' -

Alonso had little coaching experience when he took over with Leverkusen dangling close to the relegation zone in October 2022.

"He gave the team confidence, power and stability because he has a clear idea of how to play.

"He knows his players, their strengths and their weaknesses. And he's putting it all together and is now looking very good at Leverkusen."

As a player, Alonso won titles in England, Germany and Spain, along with the World Cup and Euros with Spain.

The 42-year-old played under several top coaches, including Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti, Rafa Benitez and Vicente del Bosque -- a fact not lost on Lahm.

"He learned from the best. He always had top international-level coaches and experienced things at the highest level.

"The path he has taken had a strategy behind it. Not just 'let a top club ask me and I'll go there'.

"He wanted to learn. So that I think shows his strategy."

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