The 2023/24 side under Xabi Alonso have etched their names in Bayer Leverkusen's history books, alongside some club greats. - © DFL
The 2023/24 side under Xabi Alonso have etched their names in Bayer Leverkusen's history books, alongside some club greats. - © DFL

Bayer Leverkusen's all-time XI, featuring Arturo Vidal, Florian Wirtz and Michael Ballack


As a maiden Bundesliga title fast approaches, their imminent success marks the perfect opportunity to take a look at Bayer Leverkusen's all-time XI. With FIFA World Cup and UEFA Champions League winners galore, each and every talented individual listed below certainly made a huge impact in the black and red of Bayer Leverkusen.

Designed to provoke debate, here is a Leverkusen all-time XI chosen by the brains at towers. There could have been – and in some cases, there were – arguments for several others, but let the discussions now commence.


Lukáš Hrádecký

Ever since joining from Eintracht Frankfurt in 2018 to replace the outgoing Bernd Leno, Hrádecký has been a rock between the sticks for Die Werkself, making him one of the club's most astute free transfers in recent history. With three campaigns, he was named as the club captain, and has led the side with composure and authority. The Finn, who also wears the armband for his country at international level, regulars features towards the top of the Bundesliga's save percentage rankings, while playing under Xabi Alonso has allowed to improve and display his ability in possession. Against Darmstadt in February 2024, he became the first non-German born goalkeeper to rack up 80 clean sheets in the top flight. With a first Meisterschale now almost inevitable for Leverkusen, Hrádecký will make even more history when he lifts the trophy.

Lukáš Hrádecký has led by example this term for Bayer Leverkusen. - IMAGO/O.Behrendt


Jens Nowotny

A rock at the heart of Leverkusen for so long, the Baden-Württemberg native took his first steps in the Bundesliga with Karlsruhe. Establishing a solid reputation there while still in his early teens, Nowotny made the switch to the BayArena at 22. Part of the team that ran Bayern Munich close in the chase for German football's greatest prize, injury would prevent Nowotny from appearing in the 2002 Champions League final loss against Real Madrid as well as the DFB Cup final reverse against Schalke that same year. He did, however, enjoy game time for Germany at UEFA Euro 2000 and 2004, and made a brief appearance at the 2006 World Cup finals.

Bayer Leverkusen's captain fantastic for so long, Jens Nowotny, the rock at the heart of the defence, was only defeated by injury. - imago/T-F-Foto

Jonathan Tah

Tipped to star at the highest level ever since bursting onto the scene at HSV in 2013 as an 18-year-old, Tah has taken his time to fulfill his undoubted potential. Ultimately, though, he has improved with each passing year, and is now the heart and soul of Leverkusen's back four. He has even added goals to his game during the 2023/24 campaign, finding the back of the net on six occasions in all competitions, including the crucial late winner in the 3-2 DFB Cup quarter-final against Stuttgart. He performances at club level have seen him become a key player for the German national side, and he seems nailed on to feature heavily at the 2024 UEFA European Championships on home soil. He will be hoping he does so with three pieces of silverware in his back pocket, which would further underline his status as one of Leverkusen's most important players in recent years.

Jonathan Tah Bayer 04 Leverkusen 03.04.2024, DFB Pokal 2023/2024, Halbfinale, Bayer 04 Leverkusen - Fortuna Düsseldorf 4:0 Leverkusen BayArena Nordrhein Westfalen Deutschland *** Jonathan Tah Bayer 04 Leverkusen 03 04 2024, DFB Pokal 2023 2024, semi-final, Bayer 04 Leverkusen Fortuna Düsseldorf 4 0 Leverkusen BayArena Nordrhein Westfalen Germany Team2 - Jonathan Tah is now one of the more experienced players in Bayer Leverkusen's squad.


Every bit a giant of the game, Lúcio may have won Bundesliga titles at Bayern and the Champions League with Inter Milan, but his first foray into Europe came with Bayer Leverkusen, who signed the defender from Internacional in the winter of 2001. The 2001/02 campaign was to be a season of seconds for fans of Die Werkself, with Brazilian Lúcio a runner up in the Bundesliga, DFB Cup and that Champions League final, where his equalising goal against Real briefly gave Bayer hope of success, before Zinedine Zidane worked his magic. After 15 goals in 92 Bundesliga appearances, the 2002 World Cup winner moved to Munich with the record champions.

Brazilian duo Juan (l.) and Lucio (r.) played together across the Atlantic at Bayer Leverkusen. - imago/Weckelmann


Bernd Schneider

Once established at Leverkusen, Schneider's contribution to the cause was immense. Starting out at Carl Zeiss Jena, the highly versatile midfielder enjoyed a season at Eintracht Frankfurt before Leverkusen eventually prospered from his many talents, which included long-range goals, superb skills and a voracious appetite for providing assists. A run of seconds in 2002 included a Bundesliga runners-up medal to add to those picked up in the DFB Cup and Champions League. To compound matters, Schneider was also in the Germany team that lost the World Cup final to Brazil that summer. All in all, 35 goals in 263 Bundesliga games made the former midfield master an unforgettable presence at the BayArena.

Bernd Schneider is one of the leading appearances makers in Bayer Leverkusen's history. - imago/Sven Simon

Arturo Vidal

Prior to creating headlines for his strong midfield presence and goalscoring ability with Bayern, Juventus and Barcelona, Chilean sensation Vidal arrived on the European scene with Die Werkself, convinced by director of football Rudi Völler's inviting words. In four seasons at the BayArnea, King Arturo flourished, scoring 15 goals in 117 Bundesliga appearances. Earning a runners-up medal in the 2009 DFB Cup, Vidal really excelled in his last campaign before departing for Italy, the Chile international providing a club best 11 assists as Leverkusen finished behind Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund.

Watch: Vidal's roots in Chile

Michael Ballack

Ballack was named German Footballer of the Year on three occasions, and while his stint at Leverkusen provided the thrust for an astonishing career that encompassed five clubs – which included Bayern and Chelsea – there were plenty of lows to balance the highs with Die Werkself. Already a Bundesliga champion with Kaiserslautern prior to arriving at Leverkusen in 1999, Ballack formed part of an infamous side dubbed 'Neverkusen' in English, after the team blew a Bundesliga lead, succumbed to Real Madrid in a Champions League final and lost out to Schalke in the DFB Cup showpiece in three second-place finishes in 2002. Despite that, Ballack made a huge impression at the club, his powerful midfield presence and eagerness to score leading to 42 goals and 27 assists in 155 games during his two spells at the club.

Watch: Ballack's top 5 Bundesliga goals

Florian Wirtz

Few Cologne natives are revered in Leverkusen, but Wirtz has managed to cross the Rhine and develop into the jewel in the crown at the BayArena. He has been breaking records ever since he departed Effzeh for Bayer, and was the youngest player in the club's league history when he started against Werder Bremen in May 2020 at the age of just 17 years and 15 days. He quickly netted five Bundesliga strikes before his 18th birthday, becoming the first ever player to do so, while no-one has reached 50 league appearances at a younger age (18 years and 223 days). He has racked up goals and assists at an impressive rate, and while a cruciate ligament tear in 2021/22 threatened to severely damage his progression, he has arguably become even more eye-catching since returning. The Bundesliga will surely be the first of many medals and accolades, both collective and individual - the attacking midfielder really does have the world at his feet.

Ze Roberto

This son of Sao Paulo first tested the European atmosphere with Real Madrid before soon heading back to Brazil. His return to the European continent led to a happy union between the highly decorated star and Leverkusen following his move to the German side in 1998. The versatile left-sided player was three times a Bundesliga runner-up at the German outfit, amassing 150 games in all competitions with an impressive goals/assist ratio of 19/42. A Brazil international on 84 occasions, Ze Roberto later won four Bundesliga and DFB Cup doubles during two spells at Bayern and also played for Hamburg between 2009 and 2011.

Ze Roberto was celebrating goals at Bayer Leverkusen long before the famous cornrows. - imago/Contrast


Ulf Kirsten

Not only a Leverkusen legend, but a Bundesliga one. A striker for the ages and right there among the greats such as Gerd Müller and Klaus Fischer on a list of the top goalscorers in Germany. In fact, Kirsten sits seventh in the all-time standings of Bundesliga goal-getters, his 182 strikes in 350 top-flight games marking him out as a phenomenon during his 13 years with Die Werkself. Unsurprisingly, he is also the club's all-time top scorer with 233 goals across all competitions. Whenever Leverkusen came close to winning a title, Ulf Kirsten was there. But he was also there when the team did enjoy success, netting the winning goal in the 1993 DFB Cup final against Hertha Berlin's reserves team. As one of the first players to move to the Bundesliga following German reunification, the former Dynamo Dresden star was the first ever player to amass 100 caps across two different national teams, East Germany (49) and Germany (51), scoring a combined total of 34 international goals.

Bayer Leverkusen's all-time leader scorer is one of the Bundesliga's true greats. - imago/Horstmüller

Stefan Kießling

Schooled in the academy at Nuremberg, Kießling went on to make his professional debut for the Bavarian outfit before earning his move to Leverkusen in 2006. The Lichtenfels boy blossomed into one of the Bundesliga's most fearsome strikers and, having remained at the BayArena ever since, is now Leverkusen's second-highest goalscorer of all time with 162 strikes in 444 appearances. Indeed, one of the career highlights for the striker – who retired in 2018 – was his Bundesliga Torjägerkanone from 2012/13 when he scored 25 goalsto edge out Robert Lewandowski to take the top scorers crown. An international with Germany on six occasions, the current Leverkusen executive assistant won bronze at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Bayer Leverkusen's second highest goalscorer may have hung up his boots but remains at the club at executive level. - imago/Horstmüller


Xabi Alonso

It is difficult to overestimate the impact Alonso has had since replacing Gerardo Seoane in the dugout in October 2022. At that point, the Spaniard had just three years of senior coaching experience behind him, while Leverkusen were second bottom with just one win in their opening eight Bundesliga matches. However, the former Bayern Munich ace registered a 4-0 victory over Schalke in his first game and has not looked back since. A strong second half of the season saw them qualify for European football, something which had looked fanciful upon his arrival, and only a narrow semi-final defeat to AS Roma prevented Leverkusen from reaching the UEFA Europa League final. 

All of that pointed towards a strong showing in the 2023/24 term, but even the most optimistic supporter could not have predicted what has ensued. A barely-comprehensible run of over 40 games unbeaten in all competitions has put Leverkusen on the brink of history, with Alonso's possession-based, attacking style of football making them as dominant as any German side in history, even Pep Guardiola's Bayern vintage. He may not have been around in North-Rhine Westphalia for too long, but Xabi has already made a contribution that will never be forgotten.