He did not start the second phase of his career with a five or 10 year plan in mind. All he knew was that he was in no hurry. “I had an idea that I didn’t want to go too fast,” he said. “But I didn’t really have anything mapped out.”
There were plenty of people who were more than happy to do it for him. Everything about Alonso seemed to indicate that not only would he go into management when his playing days were over, but he almost should. After all, he had the perfect education. It was as close to a sure thing as could be imagined.
He has played for some of the biggest clubs in Europe. He was one of the most decorated players of his generation, having won the Champions League with Liverpool and Real Madrid, domestic titles with Madrid and Bayern Munich, the World Cup and several European Championships with Spain.
He had learned in the generation of almost every member of the modern training: Rafael Benítez at Liverpool; José Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid; Pep Guardiola and Ancelotti again at Bayern Munich. (Even then, he admitted there is one notable absence from that list: Alonso would “love” to be coached by Jürgen Klopp.)
And, just as importantly, he was an enthusiastic and talented student. It was only in the last few years of his career, in Madrid and Munich, that Alonso actively tried to learn what it took to be a manager: He made a point of asking questions of Ancelotti and Guardiola’s staff, asking him own hand together. as much information as possible. “I tried to be curious about the manager’s work,” he said. He was, however, always more cerebral than most of his peers, a keen reader of the pitch and an expert interpreter of the game, blessed with foresight. that sometimes it seemed like he was playing in real time and everyone else was on satellite lag. His coaches, the freshest minds in modern soccer, regarded him as their brain on the pitch. From the moment he left, therefore, Alonso probably walked into any job he wanted. He could flaunt his coaching qualities, started to do a bit of sensible work, called in a few favours, and was in charge of a Champions League side that was almost non-performing before the year was over.
That, however, is not Alonso’s style.
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