Wed, 07 Dec 2022

By Oliver Trust

BERLIN, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- The man Bayer Leverkusen will present this Thursday afternoon as their new coach has won most of football's titles as a player.

World Cup winner in 2010, European champion in 2008 and 2012, Champions League winner in 2005 and 2014, taking national titles in Germany and Spain aside from several other silverware and awards; there is no doubt Xabi Alonso was one of football's greatest.

His acquired reputation as a genius midfield strategist might have helped the 40-year-old Spaniard draw the attention of Leverkusen's officials and end up with a contract until 2024.

The decision to sack Gerardo Seoane and replace the 43-year-old Swiss with a coaching newcomer might at first glance appear risky.

With Seoane having failed to continuously improve the Bayer team's mental robustness, it is Alonso's most pressing challenge to create a change in the players' mindset.

The Swiss, like many of his predecessors at Leverkusen, delivered a satisfying first year, with Champions League qualification and crossing the Bundesliga finish line in third.

However, the former Young Boys coach was sacked after overseeing the club's worst start to a season in decades.

Famed for his robustness and unbreakable will on the pitch, Alonso must now perform for the first time by stepping into the international limelight as a coach.

Capped 114 times for Spain, Alonso never disappeared from German football's radar as his name turned up in several cases as a possible choice.

Following his retirement in 2017, Alonso became a youth coach at one of his former sides, Real Madrid.

Alonso's two years as Real Sociedad's B-team manager appeared a comfortable parking spot for him under the wings of his hometown club. It was a common sense that he would one day turn up at the top, at least to try to draw a similarly successful picture as he had as a player.

Leverkusen sporting director Simon Rolfes praised the new arrival as "a world-class player over many years, a successful force in Europe's three most challenging leagues" and "a rare top-strategist" having influenced several top sides.

Alonso claims to have never lost close contact with German football.

After Leverkusen's two Champions League defeats and free-fall in the Bundesliga, Alonso is stepping in and enjoying a fairly manageable first game against league newcomers Schalke this weekend.

Despite an assumedly smooth start, losing seems a no-go as it was for Seoane in his last final act this Tuesday evening in Porto.

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