Klopp backs Alonso as 'standout' manager of new generation

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Jurgen Klopp has lauded Xabi Alonso, one of the frontrunners to replace him at Liverpool, as the "standout" manager of the new generation of coaches.

From the moment Klopp announced last month that he would step down as Liverpool boss at the end of this season, Alonso -- a former midfielder at Anfield between 2004 and 2009 -- has been viewed as the leading candidate to take his place.

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The Spaniard, 42, has guided Bayer Leverkusen to a five-point advantage at the top of the Bundesliga and the team are one game away from equalling Bayern Munich's all-time German record of 32 games unbeaten in all competitions.

"Xabi is doing an incredible job," Klopp told media at a news conference Friday. "That's ­completely independent [of reports linking Alonso to Liverpool]. If you would have asked me eight weeks ago about Xabi Alonso, I would have gone: 'Oh my God.'

"The dinosaurs, if you want -- [Carlo] Ancelotti, [Jose] Mourinho, [Pep] Guardiola, maybe me -- we will not do it for the next 20 years. OK, maybe Mourinho will. The next generation is already there and I would say Xabi is standout in that department."

Alonso, who won a Champions League and FA Cup during his time at Liverpool, is in his first senior managerial job having taken charge at Leverkusen in October 2022.

"Former world-class player, from a coaching family as well which helps a little, he was like a coach already when he was playing," Klopp added.

"The football he is playing, the teams he sets up, the transfers he did, it is absolutely exceptional. I played a long time in the Bundesliga and it is super impressive. Not only the points tally but the way they play.

"Leverkusen has a very good chance to win the cup. When you look through the Europa League, Leverkusen is one of the favourites there as well so it could be the season for Leverkusen. Really crazy."

While Klopp insisted when deciding to end his eight-year stay at Anfield that he would have no input in choosing his successor, the German's enthusiastic endorsement is unlikely to harm Alonso's prospects.

When asked about the possibility of becoming Liverpool manager in the wake of Klopp's announcement in January, Alonso stressed he was focused on Leverkusen but added that "what will happen [in the future], I don't know."

Alonso led Leverkusen, which has never won a Bundesliga title, to a 3-0 win over champions Bayern last weekend. And they can now match the Bavarians' unbeaten record when they visit Heidenheim on Saturday.

"If we do it, I'll be very happy, but it's not a thought for me right now," Alonso said at a news conference Friday. "My thoughts are on Heidenheim and preparing. It's a consequence of the top season we've had so far, but it's not a concern or a thought for me."