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A return to the Bundesliga after five years is a "great honour" for Xabi Alonso. Two days ahead of his debut as head coach with the Werkself against Schalke 04, the 2010 World Cup winner answered questions from the media in German and English: "I've continued to follow the Bundesliga and it gets stronger every year. That makes me more motivated for Saturday. It's time to get to work."
Alonso’s playing career ended five years ago. In his time as a player, the former world class midfielder picked up a host of titles in England, Spain and Germany including winning the Champions League twice and the World Cup with Spain in 2010. The Basque footballer learned from some of the best coaches in the world: Pep Guardiola, Rafael Benitez, Carlo Ancelotti, José Mourinho and Manuel Pellegrini. "The most important thing I learned is that players have to follow and trust you as a coach."
Today, on his first day at the club, Alonso wants to hold a lot of discussions with his players. "We want to play modern football. That means: intensity with and without the ball, being active rather than passive and with a strong mentality. The team has to know how we want to play. Dominant, intensive, controlled. We have to regain the winning mentality – and that from the kick-off to the final whistle," said Alonso.
Talking about his approach to his coaching debut at Bayer 04 in Saturday's game against Schalke 04, the Spaniard explained: "We have to work in a targeted manner. I'm not looking at May but rather at the next game. I will try to give the players clear instructions and ideas. I'd like to help them to produce a new energy to be able to revive a big winning mentality."
Simon Rolfes was also at the press conference. The sporting managing director thanked Alonso's predecessor Gerardo Seoane for his work over the past 18 months. Rolfes described the new coach as an absolute leadership personality and a leader on the pitch: "For us, it was quickly clear from the first discussions with Xavi Alonso that we wanted to complete this move as he is absolutely the right man. Everybody knows his career as a player. The feedback from people who have worked with him was consistently positive. They absolutely believe he has a career as a coach." Rolfes described the playing style of the Spaniard as dominant and dynamic: "He fits in perfectly with our philosophy and our players."
After retiring as a player in 2017, Alonso moved from the pitch to the dugout. He started working with the U14 team at Real Madrid and was then head coach of the Real Sociedad second team back home in the Basque country. Alonso has had a number of job offers in recent years. But it was only in discussions with Simon Rolfes that he felt the move to Leverkusen was "the right step at the right time."
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