Liverpool’s next manager could be one of their 2005 Champions League-winning midfielders – but while Xabi Alonso remains the frontrunner, the Spaniard has already tipped one of his former Anfield team-mates to succeed Jurgen Klopp.
Nicknamed the ‘midfield maestro’ during his time on Merseyside, Alonso was one of Rafa Benitez’s first singings in 2004 and went on to become a hugely popular player with the club’s supporters thanks to his passing range, cool presence and eye for the spectacular.
After leaving the Reds as a Champions League winner in 2009 he went on to greater success with both Real Madrid and Bayern Munich before transitioning into football management.
A promotion to Spain’s Seguna Division as coach of Real Sociedad B brought him into prominence and earned him a higher-profile move to Bayer Leverkusen where he guided the team out of the Bundesliga relegation zone and on to a sixth-place finish, qualifying for the Europa League.
This season has seen even greater progress with Leverkusen sitting at top of the German top flight and currently unbeaten. Alonso’s rapid rise and strong Anfield ties have positioned him as a natural choice to replace Klopp when the Kop boss finally calls time on his managerial tenure at the end of the season, particularly among ECHO readers.
But when previously asked who could possibly replace the German in the Anfield hot seat, it was Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard who Alonso tipped for the role – though the Spaniard also admitted that he would love to take the job himself.
Speaking to journalist Guillem Balague in January 2018 (according to the Express), Alonso said:
“Yes for sure, I have dreamt of that, but first I have to prove myself and prepare. If I decide somewhere along the way to take my chances as a manager, my link, my commitment, my passion with Liverpool is there. Why not? We will see if we can cross paths in our ways.”
At the time of the interview Gerrard was still U18s manager at Liverpool, which may have influenced Alonso’s belief that his former midfield partner would become the Reds’ manager “… sooner rather than later”.
Alonso said: “I think that Stevie will go earlier than me for sure, it’s the natural way. Stevie is already there so it’s going to be sooner rather than later I guess.”
Since then, Gerrard enhanced his reputation by winning the Scottish Premier League title with Rangers, but after moving back to England to manage Aston Villa he was eventually sacked following a poor run of results and is now plying his trade in the Saudi Pro-League with Al-Ettifaq, recently signing a new long-term contract.
But while Gerrard’s managerial stock has taken a dip since its peak at Rangers, Alonso appears to be heading in the opposite direction.
If the Basque 42-year-old sends shockwaves through German football by lifting the Bundesliga title with Leverkusen this year against all the odds, he will surely be among the favourites for a shot at one of the biggest jobs in world football once Klopp’s long goodbye comes to pass.