Xabi Alonso becomes Bayer Leverkusen boss: Which footballers would make great managers?

Bayer Leverkusen have appointed Liverpool and Real Madrid legend Xabi Alonso as their new manager.

It will be the Spaniard’s first senior job within management, after spending three years in charge of Real Sociedad’s B team before departing the role in June to pursue a new challenge.

Alonso enjoyed strong levels of success with the Basque club, guiding them to promotion to the second division in 2021.

A feat which they hadn’t achieved in the 60 years prior to Alonso’s appointment.

And so, based off his initial success, one would presume that Alonso has done well to tap into the wealth of knowledge afforded him by the many iconic managers he played under.

Who has Alonso been managed by?

Across his spells with Liverpool, Madrid and Bayern Munich it’s probably not all that surprising to hear that Alonso worked with the best.

His first real elite manager came in the form of Rafael Benitez at Liverpool. A manager known for his ingenious tactical configurations; Alonso would have picked up plenty from his countrymen.

At Madrid, he was managed by none other than Manuel Pellegrini, Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho.

And when he finally arrived at Bayern, he arguably got the best of the lot in the form of Pep Guardiola.

One can only imagine the depth and breadth of knowledge Alonso has picked up throughout his illustrious career.

Xabi Alonso Bayern

Add that to his already astute footballing intellect and, well, you have yourself a supreme managerial mind.

In theory, at least. Management of course has plenty more to it than the bare concept of managing a game, you of course need to lead the squad too.

But Alonso has had the best set up anyone could wish for.

Which got us thinking, which other top footballers have been groomed for managerial success?

We’ve listed 10 players that could be set for huge careers as the boss once their time playing is all said and done.

10 players that could become great managers

Cesc Fabregas

Fabregas has enjoyed pretty much the perfect career for any player that wants to blossom into a leading manager.

He came through the youth set-up at La Masia, Barcelona’s world-renowned footballing academy, before starring for Arsene Wenger’s reputable Arsenal side alongside the likes of Theirry Henry and Patrick Vieira.

The Spaniard then fell under the tutorship of Guardiola at Barcelona and formed part of a squad regarded by many to be the finest of all-time.

Before then thriving under Mourinho at Chelsea and becoming a legend in his own right at the London club.

Not to mention that he’s second in the all-time Premier League assist list thanks to his brilliant footballing mind.

Fabregas was made for management.

Cesc Fabregas celebrates his 35th birthday today.

James Milner

There is a reason Jurgen Klopp loves Milner so much. In fact, there are many.

But we bet that his unconquerable mindset and his famously good leadership qualities are two of his favourite aspects about the English veteran.

We don’t imagine Milner would be the most tactically astute of managers, not like Fabregas would be. A more Steve Bruce or Harry Redknapp-esque character might be more fitting.

Liverpool's Milner

Ilkay Gundogan

The influence of Guardiola is becoming quite the theme, isn’t it?

The Man City boss was once asked which of his players had the best chance of becoming a manager and his response was telling.

“Midfield players. I think (Ilkay) Gundogan would be,” Guardiola said in March 2022 press conference, prior to that week’s Champions League fixtures.

“Midfield players have a chance to be managers, and players who think of the game of football as a whole, not just thinking of me, me, me.

“When these guys start to understand the game as a group, as a whole, they have the challenge to be a manager.”

Gundogan was also managed by Klopp at Borussia Dortmund and has previously admitted that he plans to go into coaching after he retires.

Ilkay Gundogan in action for Manchester City

Joshua Kimmich

Kimmich might be a slightly more left field inclusion, given the German is still only 27 and therefore might have another decade left in the game.

However, his fiery personality combined with his exceptional all-round tendencies make him an excellent candidate.

Joshua Kimmich

Sergio Busquets

Busquets is known to be a relatively quiet personality in the dressing room, so if he was to go into management, then that could be an area he needs to work on.

But like with many on this list, he’s an all-conquering midfielder that’s been at the top of the game for practically his entire career.

And besides, when someone spends their entire career at the beating heart of the Barcelona midfield, you can be sure they understand a thing or two about how the game works.

Sergio Busquets Barcelona

Gianluigi Buffon

Now, it might be slightly unusual to tip a goalkeeper for a role within management but if any were to make the move, Buffon would be that guy.

Buffon reportedly revealed his coaching ambitions in a recent interview, per Sportskeeda:

“I feel the need within me to take this challenge on. I feel the essence of life is to say that at the end of my life, I can be satisfied with what I have achieved because I have lived my life to the fullest.”

Buffon simply adores the beautiful game and once he finally hangs up his gloves for good, you just know he’s finding some other role in the game to entertain him.

Buffon Juventus

Sergio Ramos

Could Ramos have what it takes to step into management? He’d certainly have the ruthlessness of Diego Simeone on his side, whilst his stature as a centre back is second to none at this point.

We could see the Spaniard securing a coaching role with his former side Madrid after he retires, but whether that is enough to convince him to pursue the role of boss remains to be seen.

Sergio Ramos in action for Paris Saint-Germain

Virgil van Dijk

Dutch players often make great managers. We’ve seen it before with the likes of Johan Cruyff and Ronald Koeman, both were talismanic players for the nation throughout their playing career, much like Van Dijk.

So, we don’t see any reason why Van Dijk can’t be the next Oranje to take the leap.

As centre backs go, you won’t find any that come as tactically proficient as the Liverpool star.

Virgil van Dijk

Nemanja Matic

The Serbian is another defensive midfielder that’s worked under some great coaches throughout his career.

Ancelotti and Mourinho being two of the finest examples and both coaches went out of their way to sign Matic at Chelsea and United.

He’s certainly not as nailed on as many of the above stars, but would have a decent chance of making it, that’s for sure.

Matic Man Utd

Jordan Henderson

Another Liverpool star that is championed by Klopp.

Darren Bent once tipped Henderson for management, saying on talkSPORT:

“You always knew he had the dedication. When we were at Sunderland, he was a young kid then, maybe 18.

“There had been a lot of talk about him, he’d been linked to everyone, but he got his head down, worked hard and set a good example.

“I always knew he would go on to become something special. He would call out senior players. It takes a lot of courage to call out senior players when they weren’t pulling their weight, he was giving them a rollocking… at 18.

“Even in training, he didn’t want his team to lose possession of the ball, he didn’t want to lose a five-a-side.”

Now, if that isn’t management material, then we don’t know what is.

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