Premier League • England

Xabi Alonso ‘makes choice’ on Liverpool job as Rafa Benitez advises FSG on ‘intelligent’ Klopp successor

Rafa Benitez has had his say on Xabi Alonso replacing Jurgen Klopp as Liverpool manager

Rafa Benitez has had his say on Xabi Alonso replacing Jurgen Klopp as Liverpool manager

Bayer Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso has reportedly already decided to take the Liverpool job if offered it this summer, with the Spaniard favouring a return to Anfield over Bayern Munich and amid some timely advice by his former mentor Rafa Benitez.

The Reds are looking for a new manager to succeed the iconic Jurgen Klopp in the Anfield dug-out following the news that he will walk away after close to nine years at the helm. Having helped Liverpool win six trophies, including the Premier League and Champions League, Klopp will be fondly remembered as one of the club’s all-time great managers.

As a result, American owners FSG face arguably their most important decision of their tenure in deciding his successor, though they have been aware of Klopp’s wish to leave since November, having had a number of weeks to chew over the news became it was made public knowledge.

As a result, a number of top-class options have seemingly presented themselves with Roberto De Zerbi, Julian Nagelsmann and Ruben Amorin among the candidates seemingly under consideration.

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However, former Reds midfielder Alonso appears to be the outstanding candidate with his fine work with Bayer Leverkusen ensuring he is very much at the forefront of FSG’s thinking.

With the charisma and tactical acumen in full display, it would seem Alonso is perfectly placed to step into Klopp’s shoes at season’s end.

FSG, though, are adamant that nothing will be made public before the season’s end given Alonso’s quest to win Leverkusen’s first Bundesliga crown in their 119-year history, as well as the four-pronged trophy push Liverpool are going for themselves.

Xabi Alonso decides to take Liverpool job  – report

With Klopp himself also anointing Alonso as his potential replacement, labelling him as a ‘standout’ coach, it seems everything is falling into place to bring the 42-year-old in at Anfield.

Nonetheless, it’s been reported that Liverpool do face competition for the Spaniard, with another of his former clubs, in Bayern Munich, also casting eyes over him as a potential future coach.

To gain themselves an advantage, it’s reported the Reds have already reached out to Alonso’s entourage to make clear their wish to draft him in as Klopp’s replacement.

Now according to German outlet Fussball Transfers, Alonso is considered the ‘top favourite’ to take the Liverpool job and have ‘already made contact’ over his appointment.

They claim that Bayern – well aware of that interest – are not prepared to sit idly by and are planning an approach for Alonso themselves. However, FT claims that any approach by Bayern will likely be met with disappointment with Alonso having already made his choice and is ‘very much leaning’ towards Liverpool.

Alonso, himself, is giving little away over his future, having recently made clear his focus on the job in hand with Leverkusen.

“I am not in that moment to think about the next step. I’m in a great place, I’m enjoying it and I think it’s the right place. That’s all I can say.”

Alonso added: “What’s going to happen in the future I don’t know and I don’t really care at the moment.”

Rafa Benitez endorses Xabi Alonso for Liverpool

One man who knows what it takes to manage Liverpool is Rafa Benitez, with the Spaniard, like Klopp, also helping the Reds to Champions League glory on that famous night in Istanbul in 2005.

Among his ranks that day was Alonso, who scored Liverpool’s equaliser in the 3-3 draw and remains a hugely popular figure around Anfield.

In an interview with The Athletic, Benitez has reflected on his own experiences in leaving Valencia for Liverpool in 2004 and explained why he thinks his former midfielder is the “intelligent” appointment at Anfield.

“It’s difficult to know [what Alonso will be thinking about Liverpool],” Benitez said. “You have to know the possibility of improving where you are or growing with a new project.

“I didn’t want to leave Valencia, I was really happy there, but there were offers from four teams and Liverpool’s was very attractive. You could see a project,with lots of excitement and potential.

“Maybe if I stayed, we would have won the Champions League with Valencia, but I went to a club that trusted me and gave me the keys to their house.”

Asked what makes Alonso the right choice, Benitez says the way he has forged Leverkusen’s identity would also be perfect for the Merseysiders.

“I watched the highlights [of the 3-0 win over Bayern Munich, which put Leverkusen five points clear at the top].

“I’ve watched some full games, too. When he took over last season, they needed to play a lot on the counter-attack.

“Now they have a team which is more of a protagonist, with a lot of pace, a lot of fast attacking. He is doing very good work. Xabi has been at good teams with good coaches. He is intelligent. He has picked up different things from all his coaches.”

Lack of experience not a problem – Benitez

Benitez is adamant that a lack of experience will not hinder Alonso too much, adding: “Experience – in my case, too – is what you do with what you have been through.

“When you go through various leagues, various countries, at different teams, at different levels, you pick up a lot of experience and information.

“That allows you to make the right decisions more often. We coaches make mistakes, as all people do, but experience means you get it right more often.”

Alonso currently has a 64.71 win percentage record with Leverkusen, having won 44 of his 68 games in charge at the time of writing.

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