With Gerardo Seoane ultimately paying the price for Bayer Leverkusen’s poor start to the season with his job, the Werkself have turned to a former playing legend in Xabi Alonso to turn their fortunes around. Can the inexperienced Spaniard succeed in the Bundesliga as a coach like he did as a player?
Bayer Leverkusen’s decision to sack Gerardo Seoane was dictated primarily by the pragmatism of results, but their appointment of Xabi Alonso as their new trainer is one born of optimism and hope. Alonso has never coached a top-level club and Bayer are relying on him converting his genius as a player to effectiveness in the technical area.
There can be no doubting that Alonso learned from the best during his time as a player with Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid and can take a raft of knowledge with him into this job. Unlike former teammate Steven Gerrard or another contemporary Frank Lampard Alonso opted not to jump straight in with a big club but started his coaching career with Real Madrid’s youth side, before taking on the role or Real Sociedad B’s coach at his first club.
He gained success with the Sociedad youngsters finishing fifth in his first season in Segunda B Group II and then topping the table in the promotion phase. Alonso was tipped to succeed Marco Rose at Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2021 but in the end die Fohlen went for Adi Hütter instead (with unsuccessful results).
In his favour Alonso speaks German and will garner instant respect from his playing days in Bundesliga and beyond. He has learned from highly respected coaches such as Rafa Benitez, Pep Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane, has won the Champions League twice, the Bundesliga three times, la Liga one and then there is the small matter of the World Cup.
The Bundesliga will give him the chance to develop as young coach as Julian Nagelsmann, Jürgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel have all discovered without the massive pressure that the Premier League exerts where money is king and determines all decisions (see the firing of Tuchel from Chelsea).
Going against him is his inexperience, but his promise has superseded any worries in this department. Leverkusen showed last season that the squad has the individual quality to succeed, but for whatever reason this season hasn’t seen that quality transferred into results. Alonso the club feel is the man to change that. “The separation is not easy for us” CEO Fernando Carro said today. “But in our current situation we see no other option.”
Sporting director Simon Rolfes added, “In Xabi Alonso we have signed a coach who was an absolute world-class professional as a player, an intelligent strategist and extremely successful in three of the most demanding European leagues.”
The man himself has said, “I know Leverkusen from my time in Germany as an excellent club. Bayer 04 always had great players, and I see a lot of quality in the current squad too. This task appeals to me a lot.”
Outgoing coach Gerardo Seoane also had words before vacating the Leverkusen hotseat. “It hurts and I’m sad because I really enjoyed working here. I’m very grateful to those responsible for the chance they gave me here in Leverkusen. Thanks also to the fans who have always given us strong support, even in difficult times. I wish my team that they can use this cut and return to the road to success as quickly as possible. I’m proud of how we stuck together until the end.”