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Bayern Leverkusen and their Fairytale Run: Diving deeper into the 2024 Bundesliga Champions

As Bayern Leverkusen football team became the 2024 Bundesliga and DFB Pokal Champions with a 51-match unbeaten streak, we look back into the origins, the horrors of their past, and the statistics of Xabi Alonso's invincible team.

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Sridip Bhattacharya
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Football League Winners: Bayer Leverkusen are the Bundesliga 2023-24 Champions

Bayer Leverkusen are the 2024 Bundesliga and DFB Pokal Champions. Image courtesy | Bundesliga

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“From undesirable to undeniable “. Bayer Leverkusen’s journey from being a factory team since 1904 to Bundesliga Champions is nothing short of a fairytale and echoes through the quote mentioned above.

Bayer Leverkusen’s title run for 2023 - 24 is the one that will be remembered for years to come. Their Bundesliga season saw them finishing with a staggering 28 wins and just 6 draws. Xabi Alonso has changed the ballgame for the entire footballing world to witness. His efforts have made Leverkusen achieve an "Invincible" Bundesliga season. They are the first team to achieve this in the Bundesliga and the 8th team overall to have achieved this feat. In this article, we will dive deep into Leverkusen's entire timeline, knowing their past and how they achieved their present

Read Also: The Invincibles: 8 times a football team won their league undefeated

The Origins

Bayer Leverkusen's early history - sportzpoint.com
                                                     Bayer Leverkusen was founded as a factory team. Image courtesy | Wikipedia

 

On 1st July 1904, Leverkusen was founded as a works team later in 1907 a separate football department was formed within the club. Leverkusen would qualify for upper leagues in 1962, just a year before Germany’s Bundesliga league was formed. By the 1980s Leverkusen was consistent in staying in the upper side of the Bundesliga league and successfully maintaining it till the 1990s.

1990’s saw the club’s greatest successes but that was only the start of the struggle for silverware which haunted them for two decades in the future. Leverkusen has a history of rising through the ashes of defeat. 1996 saw them facing a relegation battle but that brought an offensive-style approach to their play under coach Christoph Daum. But the frustrating times were yet to come.

"The Treble Horror "

Michael Ballack - A eminent part of the Leverkusen's Treble Horror
                          Michael Ballack: One of the best players for Bayer Leverkusen during "The Treble Horror ". Image Courtesy | Wikipedia

1997-2002 saw the team earn second-place finishes four times in a row. In 2000, a draw with Spvgg Unterhaching would have helped them clinch their first Bundesliga but an own goal from Michael Ballack would make them wait for silverware with more years to come.

The season of 2002 has always been dubbed “The Treble Horror” where Leverkusen lost the DFB Pokal final to Schalke 04 (4-2) and lost the UEFA Champions League final to Real Madrid(2-1). This also led the English media to dub them “Neverkusen”. 

Leverkusen had history written all over them even in their defeats as in 2002, they were the first team to be a Champions League finalist without ever winning the national championship. The curse continued to haunt them as Germany’s National team lost the 2002 World Cup Final with five members from the Bayer Leverkusen team.

Read Also: Champions League Stats: Who scored the first goal of the UEFA Champions League era?

From Neverkusen to Bundesliga Champs: The Invincible Stats

When Xabi Alonso came in 2022, Bayer Leverkusen was in the 17th position in the table. Leverkusen needed the tactical mastery from the legendary player-turned-coach to reach the top of the table from that position. Alonso's points-per-game and goals-per-game were the best achieved by any coach in Bayer's history.

Leverkusen under Alonso's reign has conceded just 24 goals throughout the entire season creating another club record.

Alonso has a terrific win ratio this season at 68 percent with only three coaches (Pep Guardiola, Hansi Flick, and Carlo Ancelloti) above him having a better ratio in league history. However, the most interesting fact is that Alonso contributed to the win ratios of both Guardiola and Ancelotti when he played under them in Bayern Munich. 

Xabi's 3-4-2-1 formation with Bayer

Alonso's 3-4-2-1 style has created an atmosphere of dynamic possession play. This atmosphere has helped his players to do better than their capabilities and shatter individual records. 

Bayer Leverkusen's 3-4-2-1 formation - sportzpoint.com
Alonso's 3-4-2-1 formation was pivotal in winning Bundesliga 2023-24. Image courtesy: Bundesliga

The stats

Boniface and Wirtz - sportzpoint.com
Victor Boniface and Florian Wirtz with their accolades for this Bundesliga Season. Image courtesy: Africa Top sports(left)|Punch Newspapers(right)

Victor Boniface, signed by  Alonso on 22nd July 2023, has been the top scorer in the league with 14 goals. He was rewarded as Bundesliga Rookie of the season 2023-24. Boniface's body power has helped block his opponent's markers and his speed has helped him run behind defenders and finish with more prowess.

Boniface's playing style helped Wirtz to seep through subsequent gaps. This has helped Florian Wirtz to properly assist and go for goals whenever he had the opportunity. With 11 goals and 11 assists Florian Wirtz was the Bundesliga Player of the season.

Frimpong and Grimaldo - sportzpoint.com
                                                                   Frimpong and Grimaldo were pivotal to the Bundesliga success of Bayer Leverkusen. Image courtesy: Pinterest

Alejandro Grimaldo was pivotal as a left-back for Bayer Leverkusen. 10 goals and 13 assists he has won 214 tackles this season and completes 87.8 passes making him one of the most valuable defenders in the Bundesliga. Grimaldo's performance signifies calmness in Leverkusen's dynamic possession play. Grimaldo's ability to move through tight spaces has helped the team move the play from defence to attack very quickly yet seamlessly.

Like Grimaldo, right-back Jeremie Frimpong plays wide and high to maintain dynamic possession for the team. He stands 4th in both assists (7) and goals (9)for Leverkusen this season. He also ranks second in sprints (960) in this Bundesliga season. Frimpong's capability to isolate the opponent's defenders in 1v1 situations helps create open spaces for the forward line to move and score. Frimpong's skilled dribbling makes him unpredictable and his finishing efficiency makes him score goals in tougher situations. 

Xhaka and Alonso Image Courtesy Koha net - sportzpoint.com
                               Xabi Alonso and Granit Xhaka's partnership as coach and captain has created new leaps for Bayer Leverkusen to achieve.

Granit Xhaka was the most important factor in implementing Bayer Leverkusen's playing style in Bundesliga 2023-24. Xabi Alonso's central lieutenant on the field Granit Xhaka has a 92.92% success rate in passing and a 55.27% success rate in completing tackles. He has been the best runner for Leverkusen covering a total distance of 351 kilometers. Like Alonso during his playing days, Xhaka likes to be at the forefront while facing the opponent's triangle of defense cover. Irrespective of being man-marked Xhaka has always completed his passes to his teammates. In fact, his capability to draw attention toward himself helps teammates to become free. This increases several options for him to pass and control the possession play.

These players have been instrumental to Alonso's success this year. Will their dominance continue through the seasons? Only time will tell.

See also: Pics: Bayern Leverkusen celebrate after winning the Bundesliga 2024 

New kings of German football?

Bayern Leverkusen were crowned Bundesliga champions by defeating Werden Bremen 5-0 ending Bayern Munich’s run of 11 successive league titles. This feels just the start as Alonso has extended his contract till 2026.

A Bundesliga and DFB Pokal for the first time in 100 years has indeed made this win special They did not win the treble but with a dual silverware season: Bayer Leverkusen has given the current fans a memory worth cherishing for a lifetime.

Bundesliga Xabi Alonso Bayer Leverkusen