The Swiss midfielder’s playing time in the Bundesliga alone had shown just how highly Alonso values him. The 31-year-old started 32 league fixtures in the title-winning 2023/24 season, missing one through suspension and only failing to be selected from the outset on the final day with the title long since sealed. Xhaka has made his mark on the team from the moment he joined in the summer from Arsenal. But what exactly has he brought to

Any time a Bayer player is unsure what to do with the ball, he has one simple option: pass it to Granit. When Leverkusen have the ball, the central midfielder is always on the move, head on a swivel, forever out of reach from the opposition. Even when opponents try to man-mark him, Xhaka can always find gaps with quick passes that release his teammates.

Switzerland’s captain and most capped player actually likes to be at the heart of the opposition’s covering triangle. It has a big advantage in that he draws attention to himself once the ball comes into him, therefore opening up several options to pass it on to free teammates.

Xhaka is always open to receive the ball, and Leverkusen play through him more than any other player in the entire Bundesliga. He’s had 2,893 touches of the ball over the first 25 matchdays, which was some 600 more than the next best player in the division

He doesn’t just do the easy stuff, though. He’s cool under pressure like few others in football, and was the missing piece at the heart of Leverkusen’s play who’s capable of dealing with the strong pressing game seen in Germany.

“Bayer 04 signed me to stabilise this young team,” Xhaka said in his first interview with his new club’s official media last summer. “I’ll try and do that on every level, also mentally. I don’t want to play dad or the boss. But everyone must be clear that you have to work hard to be successful.”