Rafa Benitez talks up Xabi Alonso's tactical knowledge but offers word of caution amid Liverpool manager links

Former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has revealed Xabi Alonso was always 'clever' tactically, but offered a word of caution on the media frenzy surrounding the Bayer Leverkusen boss.

Alonso is the clear frontrunner to take over from Jurgen Klopp as Liverpool manager at the end of the season.

The 42-year-old currently leads the Bundesliga, with his Leverkusen side still unbeaten in 2023/24.

Widely viewed as one of the brightest young coaches in European football, the former midfield playmaker is seemingly not only top of Liverpool's wish list this summer, but Bayern Munich's too.

Alonso played for both European giants during his career, spending five years at Anfield and three years in Munich.

And the man who brought him to Merseyside back in 2004 recognised his tactical acumen from the start.

Benitez, who is now in charge of La Liga side Celta Vigo, told the Guardian of his former midfielder: “Everybody had doubts. Could he play in England? Not strong enough in the upper body, not quick. There were question marks. We knew he had the talent but there are a lot of players who have talent, who cannot cope with the physicality and pace.”

He continued: “He was clever and analysed. When you explain things to some players, you have to repeat. Xabi was one who learned quickly.”

Trainer Rafael Benitez und Steven Gerrard beide Liverpool präsentieren stolz die Trophäe

However, while Alonso is currently the hottest property in the coaching world, Benitez is wary of the hype that comes with the social media age, using another former Liverpool star in Steven Gerrard as an example.

The 63-year-old added: “He’s a big name, good professional, good lad, clever, doing really well so I understand why. [But] imagine Steven Gerrard was around and doing well. Then it would be: ‘Gerrard!’ With social media everything is going too fast so that people don’t see the big picture.”

It's not the first time, Benitez has made this point regarding interest in his former player turned manager.

He previously said of the Reds' managerial search: "Teams have to choose not what is trending on social media, but the characteristics they need and the stability and path they want for their team."

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