Leverkusen dreaming big with Xabi Alonso at helm

BAYERN Munich’s 10-year grip on the Bundesliga title is looking under threat from an unlikely challenger.

The Bavarian giants were gifted the title on the last day of the season in 2022-23, when Borussia Dortmund drew with Mainz, allowing Bayern to steal the crown with a 2-1 win at Cologne.

That was the closest any team had come to dethroning Bayern since Dortmund’s last title back in 2012.

For all of Harry Kane’s goals for the German giants since his summer move from Tottenham Hotspur, Bayern currently occupy 2nd place in the Bundesliga.

The man masterminding Bayer Leverkusen’s rise to the top of the German top-flight is none other than Xabi Alonso, who spent three years with Bayern Munich during his playing days.

Leverkusen have made the joint-best start to a Bundesliga season, with only Pep Guardiola’s Bayern side of 2015-16 able to match their 31 points from the opening 11 matches.

Bayer have never won a Bundesliga title, but have finished runners-up five times – most recently in 2011.

The former Liverpool star took over in October 2022, with the club second bottom in the Bundesliga and despite a tricky start, with only one win in his opening seven league games in charge, things improved quickly.

Alonso turned it around, guiding Leverkusen to a UEFA Europa League semi-final last season, as well as a two-month unbeaten run towards the end of last season that ensured a sixth-place finish last term.

The club resisted calls from Tottenham for their manager’s services during the summer, before the London side turned their attention to Ange Postecoglou.

Alonso has since committed his future to the club further, signing a new deal with Leverkusen until 2026.

Aston Villa snapped up Leverkusen’s top scorer from last season when they brought Moussa Diaby to Villa Park, but the Bundesliga side still strengthened their side in the summer.

Victor Boniface signed from Union Saint-Gilloise and has already scored 11 goals in just 16 appearances at his new club.

Granit Xhaka left Arsenal after seven years in London and has been a key player in Alonso’s new-look Leverkusen side.

Nathan Tella arrived from Southampton after an impressive loan spell at Burnley last season and, aged just 24, looks to have a bright future ahead.

Their only blip this season so far was a 2-2 draw away to Bayern Munich, as the club have so far managed to cope with the demanding schedules of both league and European football.

With plenty of the season left to play, it remains to be seen whether Leverkusen can go on to lift the Bundesliga title.

If Alonso keeps Leverkusen playing at their current level, the German club will undoubtedly be fielding plenty more calls for his services next summer.