The Spanish season may scarcely be more than six weeks old but already eyes at Real Madrid are drifting towards next year, and the prospect of a new team under new management. It has long seemed an inevitability that Carlo Ancelotti will depart when his contract expires at the end of June, all the more so given that Brazil are keeping a seat warm for him. Now, the suggestion is that Madrid might have found the man to replace him too.
Of course it wouldn't take much scouring around Europe to stumble upon the fine work that Xabi Alonso is doing with Bayer Leverkusen. In eleven months the former Madrid midfielder revived a club where morale was on the floor, taking the club from the relegation zone to a top six final and a Europa League semifinal. This season the perennial nearly men of German football have their eyes on bigger prizes, through six games they are level on points with Bayern Munich at the top of Bundesliga.
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The front-footed football of a talented young side has already won the 41-year-old many admirers. Ancelotti is one of them and if Alonso, who he coached on two separate occasions, were to be the man to succeed the Italian it would seemingly be with a ringing endorsement. "I had Xabi Alonso as a player," Ancelotti said in his pre-match press conference ahead of Madrid's La Liga game against Las Palmas. "He has a high-level knowledge of football. He's doing very well with Bayer Leverkusen. He has that reading [of the game], that capacity.
"I think one day -- for Raul [Gonzalez], for [Alvaro] Arbeloa, for Xabi Alonso -- their biggest wish is to coach Real Madrid and I want that for them because I know them all, I love them all. Let's hope that one day they can be Real Madrid coaches."
Those comments came following a report by Radio Marca that claimed Alonso was already established as Madrid's first choice to replace Ancelotti. B team boss Raul, one of the greatest players in the club's history, has also been linked with replacing Ancelotti next season whilst Julian Nagelsmann, who signed up to manage Germany through Euro 2024 can count Perez among his greatest admirers. Should Alonso continue on the trajectory of the last 11 months, however, the job could well be his if he wants it.
Of course Leverkusen would have to play ball too and they would be in a strong position to at least extract a sizeable fee for Alonso next summer. In August they tied their manager to a two year extension that will commit him to life at the Bay Arena until 2026. The World Cup winner is a greatly admired presence in the dressing room, not just for his playing career but for the immediate impact he had on the dressing room. "When he first came we were all down,""He had to lift the team up." That he certainly did and it would be easy to understand Leverkusen's reluctance to lose such an impactful figure.
Die Werkself are not an unrealistic organisation, however, and have proven themselves to be willing to do business for the likes of Kai Havertz and Moussa Diaby in recent years. Even when such big names depart, Leverkusen tend to thrive. The scoring burden that Diaby carried last season, for instance, has been shouldered by the impressive Victor Boniface whilst Frimpong has thrived with greater responsibility down the right.
Tailoring his squad to enforced sales would hardly be required at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Alonso would take over another squad replete in burgeoning talent. That would be particularly true in midfield; who wouldn't be intrigued by the prospect of Jude Bellingham under the tutelage of one of the greatest playmakers of his generation? Some of the best young talent in the game coached by one of the the rising stars of the coaching field: it's certainly easy to see why Madrid would be so keen to snare the man behind Bayer Leverkusen's rise.