Former Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho has lavished praise on Bayer Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso, who continues to be heavily linked with the vacant job in north London.
The Spaniard is said to be Daniel Levy’s personal No.1 choice to take the reins after Spurs parted company with Antonio Conte towards the end of March after a poor run of results since the winter World Cup.
Alonso appears to be ahead of the likes of Julian Nagelsmann, Ruben Amorim and Arne Slot in the race to land the job.
However, Mourinho appears to have endorsed Alonso, given his comments about the former Liverpool and Real Madrid midfielder ahead of Leverkusen’s Europa League semi-final first leg against Roma on Thursday night.
Alonso took over Leverkusen when they were in the relegation mix and has guided them to an impressive sixth in the Bundesliga table.
And, as Spurs continue to court the 41-year-old, Mourinho has been singing his praises ahead of the Europa League tie.
He said of his former midfielder, as quoted by Football Italia: “I haven’t seen him for a long time. We’ve always had a fantastic rapport, more than between a coach and a player.
“Playing against him or Simone [Inzaghi] last week changes nothing. If I am not wrong, he [Xabi] was coached by [Rafael] Benitez, [Carlo] Ancelotti, [Pep] Guardiola, me and others.
“I think it’s normal that he takes more inspiration from some coaches more than others. Bayer are the best counter-attacking team I’ve seen, but if he prefers another style it’s another story. Surely, he is very pragmatic. He uses the style that suits his players more.”
Counter-attacking style will have Spurs fans concerned
While praise from Mourinho is high praise indeed, there will be one part of those comments that Tottenham will not have wanted to hear.
The fact that he labelled Bayer as the ‘best counter-attacking team I’ve seen’ is not particularly great for a set of fans who have failed to play that style of football over the last three years.
Mourinho himself, Nuno Espirito Santo and Conte all preferred to play without the ball and to hit teams on the break with the guile and goals of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min’s pace and movement.
Fans in the white half of north London want to see a return to a possession-based team that do not just sit back and try and defend, normally poorly.
Naglesmann, Amorim and Slot all prefer to play on the front foot, although Alonso has probably not been in the Leverkusen job long enough to suggest that his team can only play one way.
The hope among Tottenham fans is that Alonso, who was classy midfield performer in his playing days, will end up carrying that style across to his managerial career.
Spurs are back in action on Saturday when they head to European rivals Aston Villa in the Premier League.