Xabi Alonso Real Madrid GFXGOAL

Xabi Alonso becoming Real Madrid manager feels inevitable after Bayer Leverkusen boss rejected Liverpool and Bayern Munich

The saga is over, sort of. Neither Liverpool nor Bayern Munich know who will be their manager next season, but they can at least cross one name of both of their shortlists: Xabi Alonso. After all-but wrapping up the 2023-24 Bundesliga title with Bayer Leverkusen, it emerged that Alonso - who was widely assumed to be leaving this summer - will stay for one more year.

And that makes sense. Alonso may have achieved something remarkable this season, and could yet end it with three trophies and an invincible campaign. But there's still a sense that there remains unfinished business for him at the BayArena. Leverkusen now have Champions League football to look forward to, and perhaps a bit more spending power in the summer could see them well-positioned to defend their domestic crown - especially with Bayern facing a thin market for a new coach this summer.

But there are darker forces at play here. For all of the feel-good talk of Alonso 'running it back', there is a presumptive licking of lips from the shadows in the Spanish capital. His decision to push back an assumed exit leaves Real Madrid with terrifying flexibility, as football's most-wanted coach now seems destined to take his talents to Santiago Bernabeu as early as 2025.

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