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regular-article-logo Thursday, 23 May 2024

Thomas Brdaric praises Xabi Alonso's men as Bayer Leverkusen wins Bundesliga for first time

Brdaric, who coached ISL side Chennaiyin FC in 2022-23, heaped praise on Alonso and credited him for the turnaround. The Spaniard took over a struggling Leverkusen side in October 2022 with the team second-bottom after eight Bundesliga games, having their worst start to a season since 1979

Angshuman Roy Calcutta Published 18.04.24, 11:35 AM
Bayer Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso during a news conference after winning the Bundesliga at BayArena on April 14.

Bayer Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso during a news conference after winning the Bundesliga at BayArena on April 14. Reuters

Thomas Brdaric endured a heartbreaking 2001-02 season at Bayer Leverkusen. The German club was chasing a treble but ended up winning nothing.

And on Sunday, when Xabi Alonso’s brave hearts secured the title for the first time in the club’s 119-year history ending Bayern Munich’s 11-year stranglehold on the Bundesliga, Brdaric was at BayArena — Leverkusen’s home ground — rooting for his club. “You cannot miss such an event. Can you?” the former German national team player told The Telegraph from Leverkusen on Wednesday.

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Brdaric, 49, is a regular feature this season at BayArena after quitting his job with Kuwaiti club Al Arabi Sports Club. “From December onwards I have seen every match.”

Brdaric, who coached ISL side Chennaiyin FC in the 2022-23 season, heaped praise on Alonso and credited him for the turnaround. The Spaniard took over a struggling Leverkusen side in October 2022 with the team second-bottom after eight Bundesliga games, having their worst start to a season since 1979. “He is an organised coach with a clear game idea. He can communicate well with the players. What surprises me is Xabi’s unbelievable energy and that has rubbed off on the dressing room,” he said.

“Also he has a very good support staff who worked round the clock to keep the team ready. The team attained a remarkable fitness level and could run at the same speed for 90 plus minutes. This is something I am very impressed with,” Brdaric added.

Brdaric picked three players who are shining in the Leverkusen shirt. “Jonathan Tah in defence, (Granit) Xhaka as No. 6 in the midfield and Florian Wirtz as No. 10. These are three who made it possible for Leverkusen. If you see, Wirtz came on as a substitute against Werder Bremen and still scored a hat-trick. That shows how in-sync the team is.” Nigerian Victor Boniface opened the floodgates on Sunday and Swiss Xhaka had made it 2-0.

“Xabi has also built an unpredictable streak with this team. That makes them all the more dangerous.

“ The moment you have the unpredictability the rival defences start guessing.”

Brdaric said his mind did not race back to 2002 when Leverkusen lost three titles, Bundesliga, German Cup and the Champions League final.

“Twenty-two years is a long time. But what I know is we were not good enough. There were injuries and at the business-end the momentum was not with us,” he conceded. This season also Leverkusen are running a treble with the German Cup and Europa League being the other two. “Yes, they have a very good chance. I hope they do it.”

Leverkusen were long derided as “Never-kusen” for their inability to keep their nerves in crunch situations. In 2001-02, they had a crack team with the likes of Michael Ballack, Ze Roberto, Lucio, Yildiray Basturk. Ballack, who finished second as Germany player in the World Cup too, had already decided to leave for Bayern Munich. “Yes he was joining Bayern Munich,” Brdaric remembered.

Brdaric, who was at Leverkusen from 1999 to 2004, said Bayern had only themselves to blame for losing the title. “They failed to solve the problems. (Thomas) Tuchel also did not have the players’ faith. They have good players. No doubt about that. But they failed to work as a team. That has been their bane this season. The way Leverkusen thumped them in the return leg (3-0) will be talked about for many years. After that match, I thought this could be the season for Leverkusen,” he said.

Germany will be hosting the European Championship in the summer and Brdaric believes if coach Julian Nagelsmann manages to find the right balance then they can go the distance.

Brdaric is also game for another stint with any ISL club. “I follow the ISL. If I get an offer why not?”

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