Liverpool 'goes head to head with Xabi Alonso' after unbeaten double completed

Xabi Alonso, Head Coach of Bayer 04 Leverkusen, celebrates with the DFB-Pokal Trophy after the team's victory in the DFB Cup 2023/24 final match between 1. FC Kaiserslautern and Bayer 04 Leverkusen at Olympiastadion on May 25, 2024 in Berlin, Germany.
-Credit: (Image: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

It would be harsh to call Xabi Alonso's DFB-Pokal success bittersweet. In defeating Kaiserslautern, his Bayer Leverkusen side completed a domestic double, doing so without having lost a single game.

The cruel 'what if' comes from the fact that this victory meant Leverkusen was just a game away from a truly unprecedented unbeaten treble, having lost the Europa League final in Dublin to Atalanta in midweek. But Alonso will nonetheless go down in history for the campaign he has masterminded — one which saw Liverpool and other top clubs take an interest in his services.

Liverpool would ultimately turn to Arne Slot, after Alonso made clear his intention to remain with Bayer Leverkusen. Bayern Munich was forced rather further down its managerial shortlist, and now looks on the brink of hiring Vincent Kompany from relegated Burnley.

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Bayern, of course, will renew acquaintances with Alonso next season, as it bids to reclaim its long-held Bundesliga crown (and finally end Harry Kane's trophy drought). But Liverpool could be dueling with its former player and one-time managerial candidate even sooner, with the pair set to clash in the transfer market.

As is the nature of football, Alonso will not have long to dwell on his Herculean achievement. In choosing to stay put, he has backed himself to succeed again at Leverkusen, despite drastically altered expectations — that will require more investment in the squad.

As Sport Bild puts it: "After the championship comes the next title hunt." And the German outlet claims Alonso has his eye on 'super talent' Brajan Gruda in a bid to build on his success.

Just 19, Gruda has emerged at Mainz, former club of Jürgen Klopp. A prolific dribbler, the winger likes to cut in from the right on his stronger left foot.

Alonso is not the only one taking an interest. Liverpool, Aston Villa and Newcastle are also said to be keen, while RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund have expressed interest too.

Mainz agreed with all parties that 'concrete discussions' could take place at the end of the season. Klopp's old side has now narrowly avoided facing a relegation playoff — helped by goals from Gruda and Liverpool loanee Sepp van den Berg on the final day.

Gruda is contracted until 2026. It's expected a transfer would cost in the region of $22m (£17m/€20m). says: Gruda looks like an interesting talent. The Albanian would surely be tempted if Liverpool firms up its interest, with his profile painting him as a possible eventual heir to Mohamed Salah.

Alonso has certainly made Bayer Leverkusen a more attractive destination than it was before his arrival at the club, but even after this incredible season, he will have to deal with other clubs boasting greater pulling power. In choosing to stay put, he has consigned himself to this reality.

The question, then, is whether Liverpool is sufficiently sold on Gruda to go into battle with Alonso. If it is, then it will likely win the fight.