Bayern Munich is off to a pretty strong start this season in Bundesliga play. They currently lead the league with 17 points – four points more than anybody else – and haven’t lost a match yet. Still, everybody can improve, even Bayern Munich.
This brings us to Xabi Alonso. who was a last-minute signing at the end of August. At 32 years old, the midfielder came on to this team with excellent credentials, including being a World Cup champion, two-time European champ and Champions League victor. Judging from his six appearances for Bayern so far, this guy can still play. But just how much can the defending Bundesliga champions expect from Alonso throughout the season and beyond?
Inevitably, many comparisons will go directly to Toni Kroos, who transferred from Bayern Munich to Alonso’s old team, Real Madrid, this summer. They both play a similar role on the pitch, however, Kroos is eight years younger and will be a star for years to come. So Alonso is not really looked at as a long-term solution for Bayern’s midfield. Instead, his role is as a more-than-adequate fill-in for Thiago Alcantara and Bastian Schweinsteiger, both of whom have been dealing with knee injuries.
Alonso will also be important because Bayern needs another good midfielder until Pierre Hojbjerg and Gianluca Gaudino develop more. The youngsters are expected to be good, but they’ll need at least a couple more years of seasoning before playing serious Bundesliga minutes. This makes Alonso perfect because he signed a two-year deal with the Munich club.
The Spaniard has performed quite well so far at an age when many players are declining. According to Kicker’s player ratings, Alonso has been the second-best player for Bayern and the 12th best in Bundesliga. So he’s proving to be more than just an aging fill-in, but rather a player who can sometimes star in ultra-competitive league play.
Still, this is likely the last hurrah for Alonso since he’ll be turning 33 in November and was already phased out of Real Madrid’s plans last season. He’s never been great defensively and this won’t improve with aging legs either. He’ll probably struggle in a regular role as the season wears on, until Thiago and Schweinsteiger recover and can rotate in.
Switching back to the positive, Alonso is excellent at distributing the ball and this will be crucial to Bayern’s attack. And if there’s one area where he’s actually better than Kroos, it is leadership. This is extremely important to a club that could use some leadership for players like Hojbjerg and Gaudino.