Klinsmann: Leverkusen are a breath of fresh air

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Klinsmann: Leverkusen are a breath of fresh air

Bayer Leverkusen became the first team to go unbeaten through an entire Bundesliga season in winning the competition for the first time in their history and ending Bayern Munich’s 11-year reign as champions of Germany.

But the extraordinary season enjoyed by Xabi Alonso’s side is not over yet. They face Atalanta in the Europa League final in Dublin on Wednesday before attempting to clinch the German Cup when they take on Kaiserslautern on Saturday.

They are just two games away from an historic treble – an unbeaten treble. In this exclusive interview with German football legend Jurgen Klinsmann, he discusses how they did it, why it was so important for the Bundesliga, and what could happen next…

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Jurgen Klinsmann explains how Leverkusen have captured the imagination in Germany

Did Leverkusen shock German football?

“I think it has been a Bundesliga season that nobody expected beforehand. With this run by Bayer Leverkusen and Xabi Alonso’s team, everybody was hugely surprised, positively surprised, and was taken on that ride in a certain way.

“Because every week you thought they were going to lose their first game, they are going to lose one. And then they equalise in the 97th minute, 98th minute, 100th minute or they scored the winning goal in the last second, all these things.

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Watch this collection of Bayer Leverkusen’s best stoppage-time salvage jobs

“They went on this trip and it seems not to end. But it has been such a breath of fresh air for Germany, for all the Bundesliga fans, for all the football fans in that country. After 10 years of having Bayern Munich winning the Bundesliga it was about time someone made a change.

“Bayer Leverkusen did that and did that in such a fantastic way, such an attacking style, full of energy, that they took along all the fans – maybe not the Bayern Munich fans, but the rest of the fans were all behind Bayer Leverkusen. They kept their fingers crossed for them.

“And now, the story has not ended yet because they can still win the Europa League and they can also win the German cup, which for us in Germany is as big as the FA Cup. It is a big deal. Probably the DFB-Pokal and the FA Cup are very similar.

“They can win that one against a second-division team in Kaiserslautern, which obviously was always a first-division team, but that is there to grab.

“And then they have the Europa League final against Atalanta Bergamo, a very good team, a very strong team, a very uncomfortable team to play but they have played so far so go so why not go for all three?”

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Highlights as Bayer Leverkusen completed their unbeaten Bundesliga season

One of the greatest ever seasons?

“Yeah, I would say so. Obviously, if you ever have a run throughout the entire season unbeaten that is already happening very rarely. It happened to Arsenal many years ago. It is something very special and nobody expected it really.

“But in a certain way now looking at it in the past couple of years, how they have built with the football players, they were very lucky with Xabi Alonso, how he connected with the club so well. Still a very young coach and connected with that younger generation so that communication seems just perfect.

“But the team was built over the years by Rudi Voller, who is now the sporting director of the German FA. Step by step they found one piece after another and some talent that nobody could have expected would rise to the level of a Jude Bellingham.

“With Florian Wirtz, they have a talent who could be one of the big surprises of this European Championship. They brought [Granit] Xhaka in from Arsenal and he fitted in as the leader of that group in the midfield, running the entire show there.

“They have a strong defensive line so it just feels like it is all falling into place. The puzzle that they created and put together over the last four or five years now, has come together to the highest level possible and made this run possible. It is a fantastic story, a fairytale story that they are still living and we are all curious now how they will finish it off.”

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Bayer Leverkusen celebrate with the Bundesliga trophy after winning their final game

Can Leverkusen’s success continue?

“I think so. It is not expected that they run through an entire year unbeaten again and win the title again but they are absolutely capable of competing eye-to-eye with Bayern Munich again and challenge them again.

“For sure, you can expect Bayern Munich to go back into the transfer market and they will add a couple of pieces to their squad in order to catch Bayer Leverkusen now because they are angry and when Bayern Munich are angry they go into the transfer market and do something about it.

“Usually, they do it with the two or three best players of their opponent and if they cannot catch them, they go after the coach. But Xabi Alonso, as you know, has said he is going to stay at Bayer Leverkusen, at least right now.

“That is fantastic because it gives them the opportunity to give it another try in the Bundesliga but also see how they can now survive in the Champions League, in the new format of the Champions League. That is something wonderful for Bundesliga fans to look forward to and see how it will go next season.”

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