LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, April 7,2008: Liverpool's Xabi Alonso and manager Rafael Benitez during a press conference at Anfield ahead of the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Rafa Benitez’s “trending on social media” claim on Xabi Alonso as Liverpool manager

When asked about Xabi Alonso’s credentials as next Liverpool manager, Rafa Benitez made a point to highlight coaches who aren’t “trending on social media.”

Saturday saw Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen side equal an all-time German record of 32 consecutive games unbeaten in all competitions.

The following day, the side who set that record, Bayern Munich, suffered a 3-2 loss to Bochum that opened up an eight-point gap between them and Bundesliga leaders Leverkusen with 12 games to play.

It is no surprise that Alonso is an increasingly convincing favourite to take over as Liverpool manager at the end of the season.

But in an interview with The Athletic, Alonso’s former manager, Benitez, suggested that it would be wrong to make an appointment based on short-term success.

“There is a lot of noise around Xabi Alonso at the moment, but there are lots of other good coaches not so much in the media spotlight,” he explained.

“Teams have to choose not what is trending on social media, but the characteristics they need and the stability and path they want for their team.”

2WC1PC0 Augsburg, Deutschland. 13th Jan, 2024. Xabi Alonso (Trainer Bayer 04 Leverkusen) 1. Fussball Bundesliga: FC Augsburg - Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Augsburg, WWK Arena am 13.01.2024 DFL REGULATIONS PROHIBIT ANY USE OF PHOTOGRAPHS AS IMAGE SEQUENCES AND/OR QUASI-VIDEO. Credit: dpa/Alamy Live News

Benitez did praise Alonso’s influence on Leverkusen since taking over in 2022, however, saying: “He is doing very good work.”

“When he took over last season, they needed to play a lot on the counter-attack,” the 63-year-old, who is now in charge of Celta Vigo, said.

“Now they have a team which is more of a protagonist, with a lot of pace, a lot of fast attacking. He is doing very good work.

“Xabi has been at good teams with good coaches. He is intelligent. He has picked up different things from all his coaches.”

Given the breakdown of their relationship while working together at Liverpool, it is perhaps no surprise that Benitez is more measured in his opinions on Alonso’s future.

But he admitted that a switch to the Premier League “would be attractive” for a coach of his ilk, in order to “prove himself.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 14, 2017: Former Liverpool player Xabi Alonso before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“We all want to be in the most important competitions with the most attention,” Benitez said.

“The Premier League is the reference at the moment. They pay well, conditions are good, fans are passionate, games are attractive.

“So it would be attractive for Xabi Alonso, and any other coach, to prove himself and to feel satisfied.”

There is sense in Benitez’s comments, but it is fair to say that Alonso is “trending on social media” for a reason, such is the remarkable work he is pulling off at Leverkusen.

Jurgen Klopp himself described the Spaniard as “the standout” of a new generation of managers – which should be evidence enough.