Taking on one’s first professional coaching gig is never easy, but it is even more difficult when one is taking charge of a team that is currently facing a relegation battle.

That is the task that Xabi Alonso will be facing as Bayer Leverkusen’s new coach. After parting ways with Gerardo Soames, die Werkself moved quickly to find his replacement, and announced that Alonso will be their new manager as of October 5th.

The 40-year-old Alonso has enjoyed a highly successful career, playing for big clubs such as Liverpool, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich, where he won multiple trophies at club and continental level. In addition, he was part of the Spanish team that won three major titles on the trot (EURO 2008 and 2012) as well as the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Alonso inherits a side that are in dire straits. At the moment, die Werkself have won just one of their last five matches and sit in a disappointing 17th place after an awful start to the season. German youngster Florian Wirtz has been out injured, which has severely hurt the team’s creative efforts, and players like Patrik Schick and Moussa Diaby have really struggled to make any sort of impact.

However, despite the challenge, Alonso appears ready to take it on and help Leverkusen rediscover the form that helped them to qualify for the Champions League last season.

“I was attracted by the club, the project and the team [as] I feel that I can play an important role here and have an impact on the team, that I can improve the team and myself,” he noted in his first ever press conference.

“I want us to play modern football, be dominant, intense and dynamic. [More important], the  players should enjoy and like how they’re playing. We want the stadium to be packed and to have a great atmosphere.” 

In a curious twist of fate, Alonso’s first match in charge of Leverkusen will be against Schalke on Saturday. During his time at Bayern Munich, Schalke were also the first time he faced after signing for die Roten back in 2014.

Like Leverkusen, Schalke have been in poor form, sitting just one point ahead of die Werkself so this match could present a great chance for Alonso to hit the ground winning and guide his new team to a much needed win.

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