This profile of Xabi Alonso first appeared as part of a feature on next-generation managers in the April 2021 issue of FourFourTwo magazine. Subscribe now and get your first five issues for £5 (opens in new tab)
“Wherever he wants, he will become a manager,” Pep Guardiola once said of Xabi Alonso, his former player at Bayern Munich.
It’s interesting then, that while Alonso’s childhood pal Mikel Arteta chose to study under Pep’s tutelage at Manchester City, Alonso turned down doing the same for Carlo Ancelotti. Instead, he began with Real Madrid Under-14s, before Real Sociedad’s B side beckoned.
Now, Borussia Monchengladbach are the next club on the former Liverpool metronome's radar. Alonso is set to replace the outgoing Marco Rose when he joins Borussia Dortmund in the summer, according to German paper Bild.
“At first you don’t know how [management] is going to be,” Alonso told L’Equipe last year. “But then I got caught up in the match. It’s like an itch and then you say, ‘What the f**k, I like this!’”
Last season, Alonso guided La Sanse to fifth in their regional Segunda Division B (third tier) division, with a side that leaked goals but attacked ferociously. If that sounds similar to Jurgen Klopp’s early Anfield days, don’t be surprised to learn that the Spaniard considers his German counterpart a major influence.
In fact, the former Basque midfielder uses a similar 4-2-3-1 to Klopp's old Dortmund side - it features hard pressing, too. Alonso played himself in midfield pivots frequently across his career though, not least when he lifted a World Cup with Spain in 2010.
There are plenty of influences from Alonso's long and illustrious career who could shape his vision, too. He's one of the few faces to have played for Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho, in wildly different systems, while Carlo Ancelotti managed him both in Madrid and Munich. Then there's Rafa Benitez and Vicente Del Bosque who have also had what one would imagine would be lasting impressions on Alonso: all managers who understand the virtue of balance.
Alonso is still learning his own craft, but he already has huge admirers. There’s natural talk of him leading former clubs Bayern or Real Madrid one day – but until he heads to the Bundesliga, he’s honing his craft in Spain, working on his own watch... as ever.
“I want to take steps naturally and not force them,” Alonso declared prudently. “These first steps in San Sebastian, my home, where I started my playing career, make sense for me.”
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