Last Season: 6th
Coach: Xabi Alonso
Squad Valuation: €427.75m
Stadium: Bay Arena (30,210)
The mood at the Bay Arena at the end of September last year following Leverkusen’s abject 4-0 defeat to Bayern Munich on matchday 12 was on the floor as the Werkself found themselves second from bottom of the table with only VFL Bochum below them. Fast-forward to the end of the season and the club were celebrating European qualification and had narrowly missed out on a place in the Europa League final having fallen to an ultra-defensive Roma.
The catalyst for the positive transformation was Spanish coach Xabi Alonso, who was the somewhat surprise choice to succeed Gerardo Seoane when it was deemed his tenure had to come to an end following the atrocious start to the season. Alonso quickly set about restoring morale, tightening things up defensively and playing to the squad’s attacking strength despite the continued absence of star striker Patrik Schick.
If last season was a starter with regards what to expect under Alonso, then the main course this season could well be something special to look forward to. The loss of Moussa Diaby to the Premier League was as unavoidable as Leon Bailey and Kai Havertz before him, while the future of Jeremie Frimpong is still unsure with bids certain to come in for the hugely improved fullback.
Aside from perhaps RB Leipzig, Leverkusen have had potentially the best transfer window thus far of all eighteen Bundesliga sides. Areas to strengthen have been identified and the corresponding players of talent have been acquired. Having had first-hand experience last season in the Europa League, Bayer have brought in striker Victor Boniface from Union St. Gilloise and he is already looking dangerous in pre-season.
The fullback positions have been strengthened by the signing of Arthur and Alejandro Grimaldo, while Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka returns to the Bundesliga after being signed from Arsenal. The purchase of Jonas Hofmann from Gladbach was a bit of a surprise, but a seriously canny piece of business.
With Florian Wirtz back to full fitness and raring to go right from the start of the season and with a well-stocked squad led by the up-and-coming Xabi Alonso, these are exciting times at the Bay Arena and a top four finish and a return to the Champions League must be to season’s goal. However, that was the case at the start of last season and that didn’t pan out too well.
Major signings: Victor Boniface (Union St. Gilloise), Granit Xhaka (Arsenal), Jonas Hofmann (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Arthur (America MG), Alejandro Grimaldo (Benfica)
Major departures: Moussa Diaby (Aston Villa), Mitchel Bakker (Atalanta), Kerem Demirbay (Galatasaray), Daley Sinkgraven (Las Palmas), Karim Bellarabi (Released)
Youngster to watch: Noah Mbamba
The 18-year-old Belgian was signed in the January transfer window for a nominal fee from Club Brugge with Manchester City, Chelsea, and Barcelona all reportedly tracking him. He is a number six and a classical defensive midfielder but can also be used as a centre back. He has outstanding technique and is tall and quick. Leverkusen have Robert Andrich and Granit Xhaka as first choices, but expect Mbamba to get his chances this season.