Bayer Leverkusen's Alejandro Grimaldo: "Xabi Alonso is an incredible coach"


Alejandro Grimaldo has spoken of his admiration for Xabi Alonso, hailing the Bayer Leverkusen head coach as "incredible".

With Leverkusen unbeaten at the top of the Bundesliga after 14 matches and Grimaldo enjoying a debut German top-flight campaign to remember, find out what else the Spain wing-back had to say in this bundesliga.com exclusive...

bundesliga.com: What's the team's goal this year?

Alejandro Grimaldo: "I personally have said since the start of the season that we have a great team and coaching staff. In the end, we need to be fighting at the top. We’ll take things one game at a time. There are so many games left, more than half the season. So, we’re not putting any pressure [on ourselves]. Bayern have the pressure because they’re the team who always win. One game at a time, keep improving. We have a lot of things to improve still. I’m sure we can fight for our goals come the end of the season."

bundesliga.com: You already have more goals and assists than in previous years. Why are we seeing a better version of you this year?

Grimaldo: "I think it’s all a process. Obviously, the team and the freedom that Xabi [Alonso] gives me in certain moments mean I have more freedom to score or assist, but I’ve been working for many years. It’s a process that’s seen me improve each year. And now I’m enjoying my best form, but I’ll keep working. I’m sure I’ll improve further going forward and continue to do so because I’m ambitious."

bundesliga.com: What’s it like working with Xabi Alonso?

Grimaldo: "He’s an incredible coach with a lot of passion for what he does. I really wanted to work with him given the player he was. And now seeing him as a coach, he inspires every day with his passion and ideas, how he passes them on, and he’s taking Leverkusen upwards."

Watch: Grimaldo is one of a handful of summer signings turned key men at Leverkusen

bundesliga.com: You are known for your shooting technique. Take us through what you do. What’s important there?

Grimaldo: "I’ll try to explain, but it’s not easy because, at the end of the day, shooting is instinct. I’ve been practising my shots for years, and now I do it without thinking. It’s something within me now. I shoot a lot with the inside of my boot, with my foot turned outwards a lot. I don’t hit it like this like most people or looking for curl, but with my foot a bit more open. It’s more from this muscle [his thigh]. And I hit the ball with a straight leg so the ball rises and dips. It’s more or less like that. It’s tough to explain, but when I run up to the ball, I meet it like this."

bundesliga.com: Coaches used to say you should shoot with your instep. What’s changed?

Grimaldo: "There are lots of ways to hit the ball. Everyone feels comfortable with how they hit it. I practised hitting it like this because I thought it was important for scoring goals from outside the box or from free-kicks. I’ve been practising for many years, and it’s working."

bundesliga.com: And where exactly do you strike the ball with your foot?

Grimaldo: "Not very low, but also not too high. It then gains height. The lower you hit the ball, the higher the ball goes. My shots rise and fall, but I also can’t hit it really low down because it will rise a lot and not have time to fall - but it’s different when you’re hitting a free-kick or shooting in open play because you don’t have time to know exactly how high up the ball you’re hitting. But I also don’t think about it now. Almost every shot now is like that. It could go a bit higher or lower, but the ball always does the same movement because I’ve been practising it for so many years. It’s now inside of me, is my way of shooting."

Watch: Grimaldo explains his free-kick technique

bundesliga.com: Do you have a role model in terms of technique for your free-kicks?

Grimaldo: "Juninho used to hit it in a very similar way. He had an incredible shot and would make the ball dip. Cristiano [Ronaldo], in the first years when I saw him playing at Real Madrid, would also do a lot of free-kicks like that. [Gareth] Bale as well would hit them like this. Of people I’ve seen hit it like this, Juninho had incredible technique."

bundesliga.com: What do you make of this goal? [Watches an Alonso free-kick under the wall for Bayern Munich against Werder Bremen in 2014/15]

Grimaldo: "You see a lot of quality, a lot of intelligence and an incredible shot because it’s very difficult to score a low free-kick like that. He has a very strong shot, not lifting it and hitting it very flat. He has the intelligence and the ability to do what he did, because you don’t see many goals like that. It’s an incredible shot."

bundesliga.com: What do you make of this goal? (Watches another Alonso free-kick for Bayern against Hannover in 2014/15)

Grimaldo: "Xabi has an incredible shot, one of the best strikers of the ball in history at this level, especially in terms of passing because it’s what he’s most celebrated for, but also shots on goal or crosses. But it’s a very different technique, with more curve. It’s more instep and the ball hardly went up. It’s incredible. But it’s a very different shot from mine. I definitely couldn’t hit it like this, and he probably couldn’t do it like I do because he’s not practised it. It’s a very different technique but just as effective. At the end of the day, everyone feels comfortable with how they shoot."

Watch: Grimaldo has been a revelation on the Leverkusen left

bundesliga.com: For your goal from a corner against Hoffenheim on Matchday 10, is it true you all worked together here and your teammates blocked a path for you?

Grimaldo: "It takes a lot of work. We players work a lot on it, but Seba [Sebastian Parrilla] the coach is the one who really studies the opponent and saw we could do it. We work on it on the pitch during the week to create the opportunity, and it all came off. Everyone did their bit perfectly, and the ball reached me well, meaning I could score, which was important. As you see in the video, all the help came from my teammates. They were helping so one player could score."

bundesliga.com: Has your scoring rate improved this year?

Grimaldo: "In terms of free-kicks, I’ve just scored two this year. I don’t think that aspect has improved here. It improves through practising every day, but I don’t think anybody is going to tell you I’m now at an age and have been practising for years and haven’t improved my free-kicks. But I’ve definitely improved lots of other things with the help of Xabi or Seba. I’ve improved in knowing how to do greater damage or score goals."

bundesliga.com: What’s that down to?

Grimaldo: "It’s down to understanding the game. I’ve always been good at that. I think that’s one of my strengths in knowing where I can cause damage, knowing where the spaces are. With the freedom that Xabi has given me with the block we’ve got, it means I know how to attack the space and have the chances to score. And with the players we’ve got, there’s always one person free because it’s tough to stop Boni [Victor Boniface] or Flo [Wirtz] or Jonas [Hofmann] or Amine [Adli] or Jerry [Frimpong] up the wing. He always delivers good balls back and gives you the chance to score. So, it’s much easier."

bundesliga.com: In your last interview with us, you told us it was a dream to play for Spain one day. That dream has now come true. How was that?

Grimaldo: "I’m very happy because, like I said, it was a dream and that has just come true. I’m very happy because there’s a lot of work behind it. I kept going every day. Anyone here at the club can see I work tirelessly every day. I’m very happy to have achieved my dream."

bundesliga.com: Would it be special to play at UEFA Euro 2024 in Germany?

Grimaldo: "At the end of the day, that’s my goal. I’m very ambitious. I have a lot of things to achieve still, and one of my objectives is to go to the Euros and play a great Euros."

bundesliga.com: What’s the current perception of Bayer Leverkusen back in Spain?

Grimaldo: "Everyone knows the Bundesliga is a very competitive league, that there are very good teams. They’re always fighting and going far in Europe. I think that’s the help and the push it needed for greater global recognition. I’m very grateful to Bayer Leverkusen, the coaches and to [Luis] de la Fuente, who called me up. I’m very happy with what’s going on right now."

bundesliga.com: You just drew with VfB Stuttgart. What’s made them so good this year?

Grimaldo: "A team in very good form. They’re playing very well. Their style of play has really surprised me. They’ve been really good this year. A team to keep an eye on who will be fighting around the top. It’s good there are good teams because we have to take on Bayern, try and hurt them and take the title from them."

bundesliga.com: Would you agree or disagree that Stuttgart play a bit like Leverkusen?

Grimaldo: "They're a team that’s good and very confident, they’re playing very well. Like I said, it’s very good for the Bundesliga that there are teams fighting up there and that there are more and more teams capable of fighting with Bayern. We as a team are doing things very well. Stuttgart are also doing very well. For us, in particular, we have to take things one game at a time to try to fight up there."