What I just saw Xabi Alonso do to Harry Kane makes me certain he belongs in the Liverpool dugout

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What I just saw Xabi Alonso do to Harry Kane makes me certain he belongs in the Liverpool dugout



Xabi Alonso moved a big step closer to the Bundesliga title (and perhaps the Liverpool job) yesterday, engineering a huge win over Harry Kane’s Bayern Munich.


I do genuinely feel sorry for Harry Kane. But it has to be said that Xabi Alonso has the potential to do something objectively very funny in the next few months.


After a long stint at Spurs where Kane collected everything but trophies, he chose to move to Bayern Munich last summer, finally indulging his wish for glory with a transfer that appeared to more or less guarantee silverware. But he did not count on the meteoric rise of Alonso at Bayer Leverkusen, which has not only catapulted the Spaniard to the front of the queue to replace Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool, but has also put him in prime position to claim the Bundesliga title.


Alonso masterminded a 3-0 home victory over Bayern Munich yesterday, moving five points clear at the top of the Bundesliga in the process. On paper, that was the biggest remaining obstacle to an unbeaten season, giving the young coach a real chance at producing an invincible campaign.


That’s not even a feat Alonso needs to complete in order to make it a truly remarkable season. Simply toppling Bayern Munich would be a colossal achievement in itself, ending a run of 11 straight Bundesliga titles.


Poor Kane. But while he has mostly been in scintillating personal form this season, the way Alonso shut him down has made me even more convinced that he needs to be Klopp’s heir in the Liverpool dugout.


The Bayer Leverkusen performance as a whole was almost shockingly good. Alonso required a stoppage-time penalty equalizer to keep the unbeaten run going in the reverse fixture, and many Liverpool fans would have tuned into the Bundesliga for the first time in a while expecting a similarly close encounter. Instead, Bayern Munich was simply played off the park in a way that is not supposed to happen to the perennial champion.


Thomas Tuchel, who in slightly different circumstances would probably be considered one of the primary candidates for the Liverpool job, had absolutely no answer for the tactical brilliance of Alonso. It was well into the second half before Bayern mustered a shot of any kind, as Leverkusen swarmed all over the visitor, suffocating and exploiting space in equal measure.


Kane summed it up in his post-match interview with Sky Sports. “We pressed them well, but every time we seemed to win it back, we gave it straight back to them,” he said. “That allowed them to build momentum.”


Klopp himself would be proud of such a clear endorsement of counter-pressing. And the numbers attached to Kane’s performance underline just how sorted Alonso has got his defense as well as his attack.


For context, Kane is on track to challenge the impossible-looking Bundesliga goal record set by Robert Lewandowski, who hit 41 goals in a season in 2020/21. He is having a barnstorming debut campaign in the league. But he was completely anonymous against Bayer Leverkusen.


Kane is not an Erling Haaland figure who hangs on the shoulder, sniffing out goals. He is more than willing to drop deeper, and is therefore far less prone to seeing games pass him by. And yet he could only muster a total of 18 touches against Alonso’s side, as he saw his threat completely nullified, failing to produce a single shot on target.


After the game, Alonso made sure to celebrate with his entire backroom staff rather than taking the glory, another very Klopp-coded move. But while he was humble, one comment gave the game away:


“We have controlled well the right moment when to press, when to wait, who could have the ball, who could not have the ball,” he said to Archie Rhind-Tutt on ESPN. That’s an enviable level of control to command over a football match.


Even if Bayer Leverkusen cedes its advantage from here, Liverpool should be in no doubt about its number one target to replace Klopp. A succession of seasoned managers have never been able to do something like that to Bayern Munich, and the way Alonso stifled the threat of Kane and the rest was a truly phenomenal accomplishment.

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