I will not miss them – Xabi Alonso on his African players who will be leaving for AFCON

3 min read
I will not miss them - Xabi Alonso on his African players who will be leaving for AFCON

While the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) generates excitement across the continent, it casts a shadow of potential player withdrawals for club managers worldwide. Bayer Leverkusen, a German Bundesliga outfit, currently faces the prospect of losing five key players for the tournament, including Nigerian striker Victor Boniface. However, manager Xabi Alonso has adopted a surprisingly unflinching stance, declaring, “I will not miss Boniface, others during the 2023 AFCON.”

A Potential Exodus

Leverkusen boasts a diverse squad featuring several African talents. Boniface, the club’s top scorer this season, heads the list, alongside compatriots Nathan Tella and Odilon Kossounou. Burkina Faso’s Edmond Tapsoba and Ivory Coast’s Amine Adli complete the quintet expected to join their respective national teams for AFCON. Their potential absences could significantly impact Leverkusen’s rhythm and performance throughout January and February.

Alonso’s Stoic Confidence

Despite the potential disruption, Alonso maintains a calm and confident demeanor. In a post-match interview, he addressed the impending departures by stating, “That’s the game calendar. We are losing some players, but we have seen that all players can play. We will decide so that we have a competitive team. I’m not crying. I’m not a victim. We have enough players.”

Squad Depth and Tactical Versatility

Alonso’s confidence stems from the depth and versatility within his squad. While Boniface has established himself as Leverkusen’s primary attacking threat, Moussa Diaby, Florian Wirtz, and Patrik Schick provide equally potent options upfront. Additionally, Alonso’s tactical adaptability allows him to seamlessly shift formations and playing styles without relying solely on individual brilliance.

Challenges and Opportunities

While Alonso’s optimism is commendable, Leverkusen might face difficulties during AFCON. Maintaining consistency without key players will be a challenge, especially against top-tier opponents. However, the tournament also presents an opportunity for fringe players to step up and claim their place in the starting lineup. This could lead to unexpected discoveries and the emergence of new heroes within the squad.

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The Bigger Picture

Beyond Leverkusen’s immediate concerns, Alonso’s statement raises broader questions about player availability and club obligations during international tournaments. While AFCON holds immense cultural and sporting significance, the timing during the European club season creates logistical and competitive challenges for teams like Leverkusen. The debate on balancing national team commitments with club interests is likely to continue, with Alonso’s defiant stance potentially fueling further discussions.

Conclusion

Xabi Alonso’s unapologetic declaration of not missing key players during AFCON has injected a dose of intrigue into the upcoming tournament. While Leverkusen’s squad depth and his tactical flexibility offer reassurance, the impact of the absences remains to be seen. Ultimately, Alonso’s statement stands as a testament to the complexities of navigating the global football landscape, where club loyalties intertwine with national pride and the pursuit of continental glory. The coming weeks will reveal whether his confidence is justified or if Leverkusen, like many other European clubs, will feel the sting of AFCON departures.

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