When Xabi Alonso was named as the new head coach of Bayer Leverkusen last October, Die Werkslef were facing relegation. However, a spectacular turnaround in form saw Alonso’s team qualify for European football, and hopes were high entering into this season.
A summer transfer season that saw the likes of Grimaldo, Jonas Hofmann, and Victor Boniface join the BayArena underlined that there was enough to be enthused about for those involved with the Werkself. Former Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka, on the other hand, made headlines.
The Swiss international, who had divided opinion in London, was regarded as a critical signing for Alonso’s preferred style of play. It was a decision that has now been vindicated, with the Swiss international playing some of his greatest football of his career, assisting Leverkusen in their push for a possible championship challenge. However, Xhaka brings a plethora of leadership and expertise, which he downplayed when speaking to NZZ am Sonntag:
“What exactly does boss mean?” The term is a little large. I didn’t come to Leverkusen to be a boss, but rather to find a new challenge. After seven years in London, I felt like my time at Arsenal was coming to an end. I came here as an experienced player.
“It was sometimes written that I was coming back to Germany because of my wife,” Xhaka said of his decision to quit Arsenal and join Leverkusen. That is not the case. She, like myself, was quite pleased in London.
I made the decision completely on the basis of my abilities as a football player and athlete. I joined a top club in Germany with a plan and a desire to succeed. Of course, the transition was made easier for us because, like me, we previously resided in Düsseldorf, which is close to Mönchengladbach, where my wife grew up.”
“You can only see what it’s really like if you can train and be there every day.”
But we have great expectations since we know the team has enormous potential. When asked about the difference between playing for Arsenal and Leverkusen, Xhaka said, “If we keep working like this and keep our feet on the ground, we can achieve something.”
Xhaka, on the other hand, is now focused solely on football, and the 31-year-old would describe what it was like to play against Alonso as opposed to under him: “He was incredibly unpleasant.
You never had to press against him because of his cunning, pass security, and timing. That’s what he’s saying to us today. In the two months I’ve been in Leverkusen, I feel like I’ve made another step forward in this area. He explains.
With Alonso getting the most out of his Leverkusen team and the Swiss midfielder declaring that “at Leverkusen, the six position suits me perfectly,” Die Werkself may anticipate a historic season. They are now top of the Bundesliga table after matchday six, and it does not appear like they will be moving anytime soon.