Xabi Alonso became the ninth man to win the German Bundesliga as player and coach in 2023/24, then the third man to win the double in both roles. - © IMAGO/Jerry Andre
Xabi Alonso became the ninth man to win the German Bundesliga as player and coach in 2023/24, then the third man to win the double in both roles. - © IMAGO/Jerry Andre

Xabi Alonso joins Hansi Flick and Niko Kovač in double-double club


Bayer Leverkusen boss Xabi Alonso is one of only three men to seal a Bundesliga and DFB Cup double as both a player and coach. bundesliga.com reflects on the achievements of a trio of golden names in German football history.

Let's take a look how the architect of Leverkusen's success compares to the other men to have managed this fabulous feat.

Xabi Alonso
Nationality: Spanish
Double as player: 2015/16 at Bayern Munich
Double as coach: 2023/24 at Bayer Leverkusen

Alonso was already a classy midfield operator, World Cup and two-time UEFA Champions League winner by the time he swapped Real Madrid for Munich in 2014. In three years in Bavaria, he added a trio of Bundesliga titles to a trophy collection that was already bulging. 

Watch: Xabi Alonso's winning blend

He clinched his first domestic double as a player in May 2016 at the age of 34 when Bayern saw off Borussia Dortmund on penalties after a goalless draw in the DFB Cup final. Alonso watched the match from the bench as an unused substitute, but fully deserved his second medal of the season after making 24 appearances in a runaway Bundesliga title win, while his only goal of that season was the winner in a 1-0 victory over Darmstadt in the cup's last 16.

The final in Berlin would be the last in Pep Guardiola's glittering three-season spell at Bayern - and it is abundantly clear that the dominant style of possession-based football practiced by Guardiola has been a huge influence on Alonso's coaching philosophy.

Alonso told The Athletic in 2019 that the coach had been a massive reason he came to Munich in the first place: "I was so curious to find out Guardiola's secrets. He has a relentless natural enthusiasm. Football seasons are long, but right until the very end Pep never seemed to be tired. He was alert, always ready. For the players, maybe this gave us an extra few metres in our legs when it mattered most."

Xabi Alonso celebrates with team-mate Pepe Reina after winning the 2014/15 Bundesliga title. - imago/Buzzi

Relentless is an adjective that circulated widely throughout 2023/24 too, as Leverkusen embarked on an unbeaten run of 51 competitive matches unprecedented in European football history. That Alonso guided the Werkself to a league and cup double in such formidable fashion is a feat that may take a while to fully sink in - especially when it is remembered that Leverkusen had been a lowly 17th in the table when the Spaniard took over in the previous season.    

In cementing his position as an all-time Bundesliga legend, Alonso also became the first to complete doubles as both player and coach in which one of the successes came at a club other than Bayern. After he committed to stay with Leverkusen, you would not want to bet against Alonso becoming the first man to win a double twice as a coach after winning it as a player.

Watch: Alonso's historic season at Leverkusen

Niko Kovač
Double as player: 2002/03 at Bayern
Double as coach: 2018/19 at Bayern

Kovač was an experienced, gritty and dynamic holding midfielder when joining Bayern as a 29-year-old in 2001. While he was often not a first-choice selection as Bayern raced to the league title under Ottmar Hitzfeld in 2002/03, Kovač certainly played his part in the triumph with 18 appearances that season. 

Niko Kovač became the first coach since Felix Magath to win back-to-back DFB Cups in 2018 with Eintracht Frankfurt and 2019 with Bayern Munich. - 2019 Getty Images

It was in that season's DFB Cup that the man capped 83 times for Croatia showed the first signs of becoming a cup specialist. He did not appear in the final (a 3-1 win against Kaiserslautern), but did play 21 minutes as Bayern beat his former club Leverkusen in the semi-final - and played the full 90 as the Bavarians trounced Cologne 8-0 in the last eight.

Fast forward 15 years, and Kovač got his hands on the DFB Cup again - inspiring Eintracht Frankfurt to a legendary 3-1 upset against his former club, Bayern. The Munich outfit were already confirmed as his next employers, and he finished his first season in charge (2018/19) in impeccable style, winning a narrow title race against Dortmund before guiding his side to a 3-0 victory over RB Leipzig in the DFB Cup final.

Kovač had thus become the first man to win German doubles as a player and a coach. 

Hansi Flick
Nationality: German
Double as player: 1985/86 at Bayern
Double as coach: 2019/20 at Bayern

Watch: Hansi Flick's career highlights

Flick joined Bayern as a player during a golden period of their history. The Bavarians claimed five titles in six seasons between 1985 and 1990, and the midfielder made 104 Bundesliga appearances during the final four campaigns in that run. A 5-2 win over VfB Stuttgart in the 1986 DFB Cup Final saw Flick celebrate Bayern's second double, and just the fourth double in German football history.

Although two appearances for Germany's U18 were the sum of Flick's international action as a player, it was as an assistant coach to the Germany national team during their memorable development from 2006 World Cup hosts to 2014 World Cup winners that he first made his mark in the dugout. 

Flick therefore seemed a promising appointment as Kovač's assistant at Bayern in 2018, and when the Croatian left the club in November 2019, another former double-winning player was called upon to replace the coach who had just won the double.

Hansi Flick worked as assistant to Niko Kovač throughout Bayern's 2018/2019 double-winning season. - via www.imago-images.de/imago images / eu-images

The remainder of the 2019/20 season would go down in folklore. Having been four points behind leaders Borussia Mönchengladbach at the moment of Flick's appointment, Bayern would not only race to a commanding Bundesliga triumph and lift the DFB Cup with a 4-2 victory over Leverkusen in the final - they also secured the UEFA Champions League with a famous final victory against Paris Saint-Germain to cap a season that was delayed by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The league and cup double was Bayern's 13th - and remains their most recent. It was by no means the last accolade Flick won in a legendary year, with the German Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and World Club Cup all Bayern's in 2020 as the club was able to celebrate a remarkable sextuple

By the time Flick left Bayern to take charge of Germany in summer 2021, he had won a record 81 percent of his 86 matches in the dugout, while his side strung together a German record 23 wins in a row in all competitions between February and September 2020 and his attacking style led to a club-record 2.97 goals per match under his tenure.