Historic Leverkusen usurps productive Kane: the Bundesliga season overview

<span>Leverkusen’s Xabi Alonso stands on a barrier as he celebrates with players and fans after winning the Bundesliga.</span><span>Photo: Sascha Schuermann/AFP/Getty Images</span>” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/fE2Ed318v8FAojosdMHY5Q–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/6fff8bb414494c486144 534ce9d43a6a” data-src= “https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/fE2Ed318v8FAojosdMHY5Q–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/6fff8bb414494c486144534ce 9d43a6a”/><button class=

Leverkusen’s Xabi Alonso stands on a barrier as he celebrates with players and fans after winning the Bundesliga.Photo: Sascha Schuermann/AFP/Getty Images

Team of the season

Bayer Leverkusen’s two-time (almost three-time) winning season was so great that it’s almost too little to describe it as such, or as the Bundesliga’s first-ever undefeated season. Xabi Alonso’s side played bold and exciting play throughout the season, showing how serious they were to the world in late January by beating incumbents Bayern Munich 3-0 at the BayArena. They won the title at the first opportunity – again in style, beating Werder Bremen 5-0 – and Alonso’s coaching skill was evident at every turn. from players like Jonathan Tah, Lukas Hradecky and Robert Andrich.

He is at a club with resources, certainly, but one with about half the budget of Borussia Dortmund. This was a triumph of administrative perfection and first-rate strategy (qualities notably absent at Bayern and BVB), but also of brilliance on the pitch. It is inevitable that Bayern will start as favorites again in August, but not as overwhelmingly as usual. With Vincent Kompany’s team and the defeated Champions League finalists having enough problems to solve, Alonso would be wise to stay put for the time being. A milestone season could have the potential to grow into a dynasty of sorts.

Non-Leverkusen Team of the Season

Category one was such an obvious answer that recognizing excellence elsewhere in the Bundesliga is worth it and in any normal season Stuttgart would have been our team of the season without a doubt. Like Leverkusen, they added a huge 40 points to their tally from the previous season and as Sebastian Hoeness, like Alonso, built on excellent work in the 2022-2023 period, the turnaround from relegation play-off escapees to second place was perhaps even more astonishing than that of second place. Die Werkself‘S. Stuttgart also did it with dominant football instead of underdog football. Their high-possession play was a joy to watch and propelled a handful of their stars into Germany’s Euro 2024 squad. If they can keep hold of top scorers Serhou Guirassy and Deniz Undav, it will be fascinating to see how the team from Hoeness will do it in the Champions League.

Non-Xabi Alonso Coach of the Season

Frank Schmidt has already started this season as a winner and took Heidenheim to a first top season after taking over at the club in 2007 when they were in the fifth tier. Definitely a cult figure for his leading role in the 2013 film Trainer! Schmidt also became the holder of the longest continuous spell at a German club in September, on the same day his growing team defeated Werder 4-2. That may have been the highlight of their season, but Schmidt wasn’t done yet. He got the best out of talented runners-up such as Eren Dinkci and Jan-Niklas Beste to finish with the club’s first-ever European qualification – they will advance to the Europe Playoff Round of the Conference League after finishing eighth.

A word also for Christian Streich, who left Freiburg after twelve and a half years in charge, although he had been at the club as a youth coach from 1995 after two spells as a player in the 1980s. For his humour, humanity and wit, he will be missed (and he would have achieved Freiburg’s third successive European qualification had he not conceded an injury-time goal against Union Berlin in his final match, giving Heidenheim the chance to sneak in) .

Player of the season

Here’s a less clear one. Harry Kane could not have done more in his first season in Germany, with 36 goals (and eight assists) in the Bundesliga alone, overcoming many of Bayern’s mistakes and gaining unanimous approval from teammates, fans and observers for his performance . leadership in a team that lacked it more than expected. Xavi Simons, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain to RB Leipzig, had an explosive start to the season, looking like the league’s best player for most of the first half of the season before a slight plateau.

The winner could have been any number of Leverkusen players – Álex Grimaldo, Florian Wirtz and Jeremy Frimpong all presented compelling examples – but we chose Granit Xhaka. Alonso opted to leave Arsenal for a new challenge and had planned a very different role for the Swiss midfielder to that of his boyhood neighbor Mikel Arteta. Xhaka was trusted like Alonso in the field. Determine the strategy, control the pace, calm down. Many familiar with comfortably having the best season of his career. entire career.

Goal of the season

Wirtz’s Kyrie Irving-esque slalom against Freiburg and Xavi Simons’ juggling and finishing against Leverkusen (the latter overshadowed by the visitors’ typical last-gasp winner) were both brilliant, but it has to be Kane who strikes from his own half scored in October’s 8-0. victory against Darmstadt, an incredible combination of vision and execution.

Great end to the season

Urs Fischer had taken Union from the Second Bundesliga to the Champions League, an extraordinary journey that was always going to make this season a tough challenge. We didn’t know how hard it was. A run of twelve consecutive defeats finally claimed the safest job in German football, with (remarkably) a 1–1 draw against Italian champions Napoli ending the run, but they came to an end four days later . were marmarised at Leverkusen (and in reality flattered by just a 4-0 defeat) and that was that, amid much mutual pain. His replacement Nenad Bjelica did not even last the season, as Union narrowly missed the relegation play-off.

Even more meek exits included Union’s Leonardo Bonucci in the winter (has a player of such strong character ever had such a minimal impact?) and FC Köln, whose incredible fanbase will be missed, but on the final day with scarcely a whimper went down in Heidenheim. .

Quote of the season

In the future, this category will be named after Uli Hoeness, but not while he continues to drop pearls of wisdom. Thomas Tuchel found a rare glimmer of joy in April when a journalist asked him about a petition from supporters aimed at letting him stay. Later in the day, honorary chairman Hoeness enters and tells a discussion panel that the coach “doesn’t think he can improve a game”. [Alphonso] Davies, [Aleksandar] Pavlovic or [Jamal] Musiala. If it doesn’t work right away, [he thinks] you should buy someone else. Tuchel declared himself “offended” and claimed the moral high ground.

There are no such pretensions with Max Kruse, who also showed that leaving the front line does not mean that you have to stop keeping your oar in the air at the most inopportune moment. He took great pleasure in putting the boot in a struggling Niko Kovačc when the coach who removed him from Wolfsburg’s squad went into a tizzy, describing him as “an absolute disaster”. [of a] character” and claimed that his former teammate Yannick Gerhardt – who was still at the club – was among a group who regularly spoke rubbish about the boss, forcing an embarrassed Gerhardt to deny everything. Even Liverpool’s (now ex) sporting director Jörg Schmadtke, formerly of Wolfsburg, got involved, saying: “The idea that people like Kruse should talk about character leaves me at a loss for words.”

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