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Alonso steps away from unprecedented glory with Leverkusen

Xabi Alonso may recall May 21, 2016, when he experienced the electric atmosphere of Berlin’s Olympic Stadium.

The now 42-year-old, then on Bayern Munich’s bench due to a slight rib injury, endured a rollercoaster of emotions as he watched the intense 90-minute match, including extra time and a nail-biting penalty shootout, which ended in a narrow 4-3 victory for his team.

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Florian Wirtz (L) of Bayer 04 Leverkusen vies with Ozan Kabak of TSG Hoffenheim during the first division of Bundesliga match in Leverkusen, Germany, March 30, 2024. (Photo by Joachim Bywaletz/Xinhua)

As the Bayer Leverkusen coach prepares for Wednesday’s 2023/24 German Cup semifinal against Fortuna Duesseldorf at home, he finds himself on the brink of once again basking in the final’s rewarding ambiance.

With the 2024 final set for May 25, Germany’s dominant club team enters the crucial stage of the season with sights set not only on winning the Cup, but also the Bundesliga title and the UEFA Europa League.

Holding a commanding 13-point lead in the league, Leverkusen could secure their first ever Bundesliga title as early as April, several matchdays before the season’s end.

If Leverkusen progresses to the Europa League final, challenging days lie ahead, with the final scheduled for May 22 in Dublin. On April 11 and 18, the team faces Premier League outfit West Ham in the competition’s quarterfinal.

While fans dream of a treble-winning season, Alonso has observed unwavering determination in his squad.

“I can see that the players are eager to win some silverware,” said the two-time Champions League winner.

With several titles to his name across a glittering playing career in Spain, England and Germany, the former midfielder understands the importance of maintaining focus until the end of a competition.

“Things are only finished when they’re finished, but until then, everyone must remain fully concentrated,” the coach remarked.

Despite being seen as heavy favorites in the Cup clash against the second-tier underdogs, Alonso is mindful of the unpredictability of such matches.

A single off day and a poor performance could turn the tables, he noted, emphasizing that defeats in a cup event are irreparable.

For now, optimism abounds at the club after Alonso announced his decision to remain at the club for at least another season, despite tempting offers from top clubs like Bayern and Liverpool.

While Alonso’s family resides in Dusseldorf, just 30 minutes away from Leverkusen’s arena, their proximity doesn’t significantly influence the Spaniard.

His focus remains firmly on Leverkusen’s remarkable season, as the coach has ascended to the status of an all-time hero with the club on the verge of potentially its most successful campaign ever.

However, reaching this point comes with the obligation to take the final step.

“To win a title is a unique feeling,” stated the 2010 FIFA World Cup and two-time UEFA European Championship winner. 

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