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From coach who gave Gareth Bale debut to Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti – how Xabi Alonso has prepared for Liverpool chance

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Jose Mourinho has long been somewhat of a fortune teller, and it turns out that he was completely right about Xabi Alonso.

Speaking back in 2019, the former treble-winning Inter Milan manager was asked which of his players would make the best manager, and picked his no.14 at Real Madrid.


Mourinho predicted a bright future for Alonso, and boy was he rightCredit: Getty

“Similarly to me, his father was a player,” Mourinho explained.

“He grew up with a father who was a player then a manager, and then he became a player, of course much better than I was.

"His knowledge of the game was very high and then he played in Spain, England and Germany and was coached by [Pep] Guardiola at Bayern, by myself in Real Madrid, by [Carlo] Ancelotti in Real Madrid and by [Rafa] Benitez in Liverpool. 

“So if you put all that together, then I would say that Xabi has the conditions to be a very good coach."

It turned out that ‘very good coach’ wasn’t an understatement by any stretch, with Alonso guiding Bayer Leverkusen to the top of the Bundesliga in his first full season in senior management.

read more on xabi alonso

Taken from Real Sociedad's B team in November 2022, Alonso coached Leverkusen from a relegation battle into Europe, and now has them five points clear at the top of the league after a destruction job of title rivals Bayern Munich.

With an astonishing record of 31 games, 27 wins, zero defeats and 93 goals this season, it’s little wonder that both Liverpool and Bayern Munich are chasing their former star.

But should we be so surprised by his success?

Well maybe not.

Retiring in 2017 with an iconic farewell, Alonso famously said he played for his ‘boyhood team, the best team in England, the best team in Spain and the best team in Germany’.

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Even Alonso's retirement was classy

With just those four teams on his CV, plus a brief loan at Eibar, Alonso could have limited his pool of coaches to learn from, but due to the size of the clubs, it was very much the opposite.

Breaking through in his Basque homeland, it was John Toshack who gave Alonso his first taste of elite coaching.

Liverpool legend Didi Hamann outlines why Xabi Alonso is the perfect choice to replace Jurgen Klopp at the Reds!

The Welshman, who was an unstoppable striker as a player, won LaLiga with Real Madrid as a coach, and he later set the team up for glory by giving their future star winger, Gareth Bale, his debut with Wales.


Alonso's studies started on a high with ToshackCredit: Getty


He then became key at Liverpool, and may well be heading back thereCredit: AFP

Toshack would have likely spoke well of Liverpool where he was a club legend, and that was where Alonso went next in 2004, kickstarting the Rafa Benitez revolution and winning both the Champions League and FA Cup

"I have learned a lot from all my coaches and I have transformed it into my own personality as a coach who is starting out,” Alonso explained.

“[Vicente] Del Bosque taught me to only worry about the things you have to worry about.”


Alonso was key in turning Spain into winners and collected two European Championships and a World CupCredit: Getty

Moving to Real Madrid as a Galactico in 2009, Alonso won his second Champions League title in 2014 under Carlo Ancelotti who, “stood out when it came to transmitting what good football is and what we had to do.”

But before that, it was one of the most impactful managers of his career, Jose Mourinho.

"Jose is one of the best coaches I've ever had,” Alonso explained.

He is very good at that,” Alonso said.

One of only 14 players to work under both icons in Guardiola and Mourinho, Alonso was one of the few to operate extensively under both at their peaks.


Alonso has learned from Guardiola and Mourinho, and feels they're more similar than they are differentCredit: Getty

Comparing the rivals, it’s clear that they’ve impacted Alonso like no one else.

“They share many things but above all they are leaders,” he said.

To be demanding with your players you have to first be demanding with yourself and they are.

“For me the special thing is how they are able to deliver the message they want to the players and how they are able to connect with you and exchange that idea that they have.”


Alonso's combined what he's learned from the legendary coaches and looks set to become elite in his own rightCredit: Getty

It’s clear that Alonso has that special thing, with his evolution of Leverkusen from relegation strugglers to contenders not just about tactics.

Only a handful of additions were made in the summer to mount a completely unexpected title charge, but when you look at the history of the man in the dugout, it becomes far less surprising.

Summing up everything he’s learned from the best in the business during an iconic career, Alonso pieced together the mentality that’s seen his players fall in love with him.

Read More on talkSPORT

“You can take the best from each one, but you need to build your own personality, your own style,” he said. 

“It’s not copy and paste, it’s about being authentic and being yourself, that’s the best way to transmit your ideas to the players.”

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