2024-04-06 · 3 min read · UEFA Champions League/Soccer
Xabi Alonso

Christopher Neundorfefe | Getty Images

Score this one for the little guy. Xabi Alonso had a more-than-realistic chance of filling the managerial vacancy at Bayern Munich (league titles: 33, Champions League titles: 6, domestic cups: 20) or Liverpool (league titles: 19, Champions League titles: 6, domestic cups: 18) this summer. Instead, he announced that he'd stick around for at least another season at the helm of Bayer Leverkusen (league titles: 0, Champions League titles: 0, domestic cups: 1). It's soccer’s equivalent of the hotshot mid-major coach turning down a job at the massive SEC powerhouse to stay loyal to the folks who believed in him and the recruits he brought on board.
The current season is his first full campaign as a top-flight manager, and it couldn't be going much better. Leverkusen are undefeated in all competitions, have a 10-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga, and are on track to set the league's all-time single-season points record. They are in the semifinal of the German Cup and the quarterfinals of the Europa League, which means they could yet win a trifecta of trophies. Such an accomplishment would be hugely meaningful for a club that turns 120 on July 1st and has but two pieces of silverware to show off, the most recent dating back 31 years.
What is most impressive or admirable about Xabi’s decision is how rare these jobs come along. Bayern have an opening because Thomas Tuchel will leave at the end of the season after becoming the first Bayern manager since 2012 not to win the Bundesliga title -- and that's in part thanks to Xabi Alonso. Liverpool is looking for a new boss because, after eight years in charge, Jurgen Klopp wants to take a break.
This sort of thing doesn't happen every year, and it certainly doesn't happen at two of the four clubs for which Xabi Alonso turned out back in his playing days and with whom he has a very evident bond. (Real Madrid are another one of those clubs. He was mooted as a possible successor to Carlo Ancelotti until the 64-year-old Italian extended his deal in December.) That's part of what makes Xabi Alonso's decision so remarkable. He would have had the perfect out. After landing in Leverkusen, building the greatest team that town has ever seen and winning silverware, he could have said, "We made history together and I'll love you forever, but I'm sure you'll understand if I follow my heart to Merseyside." (Or Munich, although given that's another Bundesliga club, that would have been a bit of a heel turn.)
It's a brave decision, contrary to what the grumps who moan that he's too chicken to leap to Liverpool or Bayern may say. They may tell you he's too insecure to fill Klopp's immense shoes at Anfield or too weak to deal with the pressures of the Sabener Strasse's annual Game of Thrones. They're wrong. Staying put is the gutsiest decision he could take. Cheers, Xabi!
Sports Tree Profile

By: Aaron Cantin


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