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Xabi Alonso and Jürgen Klopp: Two approaches and a look at possible future scenarios

Xabi Alonso has found a suitable environment for his development as coach at Bayer Leverkusen. A club based in the small and quiet town of Leverkusen, in the neighbourhood of Cologne, known for its chemical industry and association with Bayer. The club operates with a sense of stability and European aspirations. For Alonso, Bayer has become a major stepping stone as a young coach without coaching experiences in the highest leagues. There is enough reason to believe that Alonso will stay another season at Leverkusen. A second year at Leverkusen would also allow Alonso to demolish Leverkusen’s historical tag of “Neverkusen” or “Secondkusen” due to past instances of narrowly missing out on major titles.

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Xabi Alonso celebrates the team´s victory.

Already Alonso’s youth coach Roberto Montial had recognised the potential of his player as coach. “Xabi is a born coach.” Yet, the Basque himself shared his doubts with sporting director Roberto Olabe at Real Sociedad San Sebastián. Olabe recalls Alonso consulting him regarding the next move, when Borussia Mönchengladbach had knocked on his door. “That went too fast for him. He pleaded with me: Please Roberto, let’s finally sign the new contract.” Alonso stayed another year in San Sebastián.

Alonso is known for his methodical approach. Former Liverpool teammate, Dietmar Hamann, confirmed: “Something impetuous didn’t exit with Xabi Alonso.” This character traits shines through at an interview with the German TV channel WDR, where Alonso emphasized that “it is about what we are being capable of and if we deserve to be where we are currently at.” Central to his philosophy are his esteem towards the players. “As a coach you are not the most important person, the players are much more important.

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Xabi Alonso during a training session in Leverkusen.

The big difference between Alonso’s tactics and the way of attacking preferred by Pep Guardiola or Thomas Tuchel lies in the distance between the players. Alonso keeps his players extremely short, which turns the players into a block to be protected from attacks. However, the Leverkusen team also moves the ball in this block formation during the attacks. Now Bayer lead Bayern Munich by 10 points. Alonso could take the team to the next level by winning the German Cup and Europa League titles.

But would it already feel right for Xabi Alonso to leave for Liverpool or Bayern Munich? As a player Xabi Alonso had seamlessly fitted into the competitive and intense English Premier League as a midfield maestro. His vision and passing accuracy were unprecedented and his calm and composed approach matched Steven Gerrard‘s dynamism perfectly. Both players formed the perfect midfield duo. One day after Bayern Munich had announced the departure of coach Thomas Tuchel, Alonso replied to the question about his future at the pre-match press conference. “I’m sorry but I have nothing new to say.”

Jürgen Klopp’s statement to leave Liverpool at the end of the season came as an unexpected shock. “It is that I’m running out of energy,” Klopp said. He has always drawn the line regarding his professional future by quitting the clubs of Mainz, Dortmund and now Liverpool. I find his decision consistent. Klopp needs a break after such a long time in Liverpool, a club with the ‘More than a club’ approach, which is stimulating and draining at the same. This means that he will take some time to recharge his batteries, as he can’t continue to be the great motivator of his players with an empty inner tank. How special Liverpool is for the German, can be deduced from his words: “No other English club ever.”

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Liverpool fans pose in front of a Jürgen Klopp mural.

Klopp has pursued a multi-faceted approach to training. “I’d like to conduct training sessions eight hours a day but that’s not possible. So, we think about things we can do with them off the pitch.” One example being used off the pitch was Life Kinetik, a low-intensity mental programme that allows for additional training without physically overloading the players. Klopp has always showed an interest in new ideas, which has also included the use of ‘Footbonaut’ as a training method. With this equipment balls are fired at the player inside the Footbonaut cube.

Such new training methods assisted the players to become stronger with and better at pressing. Barcelona’s playing style has been a key reference point for Klopp. He stated that “It’s extraordinary how high up the pitch this team is when they win the ball back. And the reason they can do that is because every player presses.” Running has been a central component of Klopp’s strategy. Klopp was concerned with doing ‘more’ than the opponent team, with literally running them ragged. Over the years this strategy has become more sophisticated. “We’ve started being much cleverer with our runs now. We have more of the ball and we don’t need to run so far when the opposition has it.”

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During a training session at Liverpool training ground. 

Klopp has made it crystal clear that he doesn’t intend to manage any club in the next season. What will be his next step after having been manager for two clubs like Dortmund and Liverpool with such a special fan culture? Might he return to the Bundesliga, for example to Bayern Munich? I doubt it because a father figure, such as Jupp Heynckes seemed to have suited Bayern Munich more. And would the club management allow Jürgen Klopp enough time to re-shape a new team? This is the question, as Munich has changed managers very quickly over the last years and the club needs changes now and the faster the better. Regarding club management Klopp has achieved everything. Therefore the German national team could be next for him.


  • Jiwan Hasen

    A metropolitan from Germany, multilingual, a former athlete in boxing, wrestling and football, plus a keen supporter of the "Squadra Azzurra" since a young age, I love looking at all sorts of sport searching for new stories from a Middle Eastern and German perspective. My aim is to bring together and present different angles from the Orient and Occident in the world of sports. I have worked as a news speaker and television presenter with a focus on global and international news.