Football News

Xabi Alonso is coaching the most creative young player in Europe

By James Amey

Published: 8:54, 28 August 2023 | Updated: 12:38, 30 August 2023

Xabi Alonso has a special talent on his hands. 

During his playing career, Xabi Alonso was fortunate enough to share the pitch with some of the most talented creative players in world football. From international teammates David Silva and Cesc Fabregas to Mesut Özil, who still holds the records for the most chances created in a single Premier League season (and game) since records began, the Spaniard has played with and against some of the best.

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Now, as manager of Bayer Leverkusen, the former midfielder is tasked with guiding the latest crop of talented players for Die Schwarzroten as he looks to build on his sixth-place finish from last term. With two wins from two, his side have gotten off to the perfect start and he has special talent Florian Wirtz to thank for their latest victory.

Against Gladbach, the 20-year-old created an incredible 10 chances from open play in their 3-0 victory, while also providing an assist for Nigerian marksman Victor Bonniface in the 53rd minute. In fact, Alonso’s former international teammate David Silva is the last player in Europe’s top five leagues to better the German’s total. Silva did so in 2015, when he created 11 chances from open play for Man City against West Brom in the Premier League.


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Wirtz, who has also shown an eye for goal by becoming the youngest player to reach 10 goals in Bundesliga history in 2021, is one of the best young creators in Europe’s top five leagues. Already he has provided 24 assists in his first 5,719 minutes of football in the German top flight, having turned 20 in May.

Since 2021/22, Bukayo Saka is the only player currently aged 21 or under with more chances created in Europe’s big five leagues. However, he’s played more than twice as many minutes as Wirtz. Even then, the German does top this data set for Big Chances created (26) and Expected Assists from Open Play (11.31). All this after missing 265 days in 2022 due to a cruciate ligament rupture.

And it gets even more impressive. Looking at per 90 stats – and using a minimum of 900 minutes played – for U23 players across Europe’s big five leagues since 2021/22, Wirtz still dominates. He is the only player averaging 3+ chances created per 90 minutes and ranks first for the following metrics using the same criteria: assists (0.49), Big Chances created (0.75), chances created (3.12), open-play Expected Assists (0.33) and through balls (0.95).

Bayer Leverkusen and Xabi Alonso have a special, special talent on their hands.

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