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Bayer Leverkusen midfielder reveals Xabi Alonso’s ‘small details’ mindset inspiring the team

Xabi Alonso has inspired Bayer Leverkusen's remarkable season which has seen them go unbeaten, so far...

Granit Xhaka


Xabi Alonso leads Bayer Leverkusen into tonight’s Europa League final against Atalanta with a wealth of experience on the big occasion.

One Leverkusen player has been tapping into his knowledge in the hope it will give them the edge against the Serie A high-flyers.

Trying to learn from the best!

Granit Xhaka has been around the block himself, playing in World Cups and European Championships. But even the vastly experienced Leverkusen midfielder acknowledges he can learn a thing or two from Alonso, who plied his trade so gracefully for the likes of Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

Xhaka was particularly interested to learn about Alonso’s spell in Madrid at a time when the club had an uncanny knack of winning no matter the circumstances.

The Swiss told TNT Sports: “I’ve asked about a lot of things about Madrid when he was a player.

“I asked about his partner in midfield, the strikers he played with, his coaches, and how important the small details are in football.

“It’s about having this mindset to be calm, even if you are down in a game. An example is the number of games Madrid turned around when they were down, and the number of games they won when losing in extra time.

“That’s not the case just with him in their team, but today as well.

“They are the small details if you want to compete with the top teams. You need to be calm if you’re not playing well and believe you can get a result when you’re down in a game.”

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So what’s it like to work with Alonso?

The Spaniard was the hottest property on the coaching market a few weeks ago, before he committed his future to the BayArena club for another 12 months at least.

So, what makes him so special?

Xhaka added: “He is not a coach that is looking out for the names or status of players, in terms of who is older or younger, or who has played more games.

“During the week, he is thinking about who deserves to play at the weekend because they are training well.

“He gives every player the chance to prove their importance to the team. I think to manage this is so difficult because you have different types of characters and nationalities, different languages. But he has this experience as a player to give confidence to everyone. That’s why we performed like this as well.”

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Can they go unbeaten all season?

Leverkusen went through the entire Bundesliga season unbeaten and have yet to taste defeat in the Europa League or DFB-Pokal, in which they face 2.Bundesliga side Kaiserslautern in the final.

What would it mean to Xhaka if they could not lose a game in 2023-24?

He said: “It’s difficult to explain or find the right words. To be unbeaten in the league is something special, but hopefully to be unbeaten all season, internationally, in the cup and in the league is something can take away from you.

“I don’t believe anybody else can do it. Maybe in another year later, but not in this world as long as we are living.”

Picture of Jon Fisher

Jon Fisher

Jon has over 20 years' experience in sports journalism having worked at the Press Association, Goal and Stats Perform, covering three World Cups, an Olympics and numerous other major sporting events.