Liverpool’s search for a new manager is headlined by one name, with Xabi Alonso the early frontrunner to replace Jurgen Klopp in the summer.
Klopp will step down as manager of Liverpool after almost nine years in charge and Alonso has been installed as the early favourite to take over. The Spaniard has won admirers for his work at Bayer Leverkusen, who are unbeaten in 30 games in all competitions this season and sit top of the Bundesliga.
Managers often return to their former sides in search of signings and we’ve looked at five Bayer Leverkusen stars who Alonso could take to Liverpool, should he be appointed at Anfield.
The jewel in the Bayer Leverkusen crown and arguably that of German football. Florian Wirtz has been regularly linked with Europe’s elite since his exciting emergence at the BayArena and the midfielder has overcome his injury setbacks to shine again this season.
Wirtz has eight goals and 12 assists in 23 starts in all competitions for Leverkusen, impressing in an advanced role in support of a centre-forward. He leads the Bundesliga this season for passes into the penalty area and through balls, ranks second for goal-creating actions and successful take-ons and fourth for progressive carries.
Most open-play chances created in Europe’s top seven leagues this season:
◉ 46 – Florian Wirtz
◉ 46 – Mohamed Salah
◉ 46 – Dejan Kulusevski
Flo has played the fewest minutes. ✨ pic.twitter.com/2AaurUxnaj
— Squawka (@Squawka) February 7, 2024
Still just 20, Wirtz boasts one of the highest potential ceilings in Europe and Leverkusen will be braced for big bids in the summer. His value could increase further, should he shine for the national team at a home European Championship in the summer.
Victor Boniface has been one of the breakout stars in Europe’s top five leagues this season, with the summer signing having had an instant impact in the Bundesliga.
The Nigerian’s eye-catching performances in Europe for Union Saint-Gilloise persuaded Leverkusen to spend around €20m on the striker last summer and Boniface hit the ground running in German football.
He won the Bundesliga’s Rookie of the Month award in four straight months between August and November and has scored 16 goals and laid on eight assists in 23 appearances in all competitions.
Physically powerful and with dangerous dribbling, the 23-year-old looks tailor-made for English football and has already been linked with several Premier League clubs.
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s continued evolution into midfield means a right-back could be on the radar for the Reds in the summer.
In the European market, few offer better value than Jeremie Frimpong whose £34m release clause will become active at the end of the season. The former Manchester City academy product has been a revelation since swapping Celtic for Leverkusen in January 2021, developing into one of the most effective wing-backs in world football.
The 23-year-old was named in the Bundesliga Team of the Season in 2022/23 after scoring eight goals and providing seven assists, while he is on course to better those returns this season with 11 goal involvements for the campaign to date.
Conor Bradley’s recent emergence has reduced the calls for a right-back to be signed in the summer, but Frimpong’s remarkable returns from the position make him an appealing option.
Liverpool’s midfield rebuild saw four new faces in the engine room last summer, with Dominik Szoboszlai, Alexis Mac Allister, Ryan Gravenberch and Wataru Endo all arriving at Anfield.
Further midfield signings could be made this time around and Exequiel Palacios has been a standout star of Alonso’s title-chasing side. The Argentine is incredibly well-rounded from a statistical viewpoint, showcasing his wide-ranging qualities with a number of league-leading metrics.
Just one player in German football can better the 25-year-old for successful take-on percentage (88.2%), fouls drawn, and passes into the final third this season, while he ranks among the Bundesliga’s best for pass completion (9th – 91.6%), touches (3rd), tackles (6th), and interceptions (8th).
Centre-back looks set to be a priority position for Liverpool to strengthen in the summer, with Joel Matip expected to leave when his contract expires at the end of the season.
Virgil van Dijk will also turn 33 in July and planning is required as the Reds move forward. Piero Hincapié was heavily touted with a move to Merseyside in January, though Leverkusen shut the door on rumoured interest from abroad.
The 22-year-old Ecuadorian defender has been overshadowed on occasion this season by the performances of Odilon Kossounou, Edmond Tapsoba and Jonathan Tah, but remains a player with huge potential.
Comfortable centrally or at left-back, he ranks in the top 8% of centre-backs in Europe’s top five leagues for attempted passes and progressive carries per 90 minutes across the last 12 months.