A video emerged from Bayer Leverkusen training earlier this month. In the minute-long clip, a disgruntled Xabi Alonso berates his team for failing to meet his expectations in a passing drill. In a moment of frustration, the manager, 41, steps in, and metronomically sprays the ball around the training pitch - all while yelling instructions to the group.
It was a microcosm of how Alonso has handled this Bayer side. Since taking over in October 2022, the Spaniard has been handed near-unchecked power to restructure the club. And he's worked wonders with his authority. In 12 months, Leverkusen have gone from the lower reaches of the table to looking like Bayern Munich's most apparent Bundesliga challengers - with a promising Europa League run in between.
This has all come about for a club experiencing immense turnover. Some stars in the making have left, replaced with well-travelled European stalwarts. Meanwhile, other players have been reinvented, and deployed in more appropriate roles. The result is a dangerous team that will likely only improve - led by a manager who, at this rate, will have a job at a far bigger club next year.