Leverkusen defender Tah: 'Alonso has taken me to a new level'

Bayer Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso speaks during a press conference ahead of Saturday's German Bundesliga soccer match against 1. FC Union Berlin. Alonso stressed his team is focused on the Europa League quarter-finals match against West Ham on 11 April as the club is on the verge of claiming their first-ever Bundesliga title. Marius Becker/dpa

Bayer Leverkusen defender Jonathan Tah said he has coach Xabi Alonso to thank above all for his sporting development.

"Xabi Alonso has taken me to a new level. Now I'm even more unpleasant because I always have my opponent in my sight," he told the Die Zeit weekly in an interview published on Thursday.

Tah said that Alonso helped him improve not only his defending skills, but also his build-up play.

"The coach is always working on this with us defenders," he said. Furthermore, Alonso is not a coach "who stands on the sidelines, remains silent and watches." If he doesn't like something, he intervenes, "regardless of how prominent a player is."

"There aren't many coaches who can do that, simply because they weren't able to play football as well as he did," Tah said.

The defender is playing a strong season and can help Leverkusen claim their maiden Bundesliga title at the weekend.

The team, who is unbeaten in all its 41 season matches and a record-equalling 28 in the Bundesliga in 2023-24, will be crowned champions if it beats Werder Bremen on Sunday.

But Leverkusen could even take the title the previous day if Bayern and Stuttgart lose their matches against Cologne and Eintracht Frankfurt, respectively.

A treble is also still possible, with Leverkusen in the German Cup final and in the quarter-finals of the Europa League.

Tah is also expected to play an important role under Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann at the Euro 2024 on home soil this summer.

He's convinced of Germany strengths and said that the recent victories against France and the Netherlands were encouraging.

"Of course we shouldn't highly praise everything, it wasn't perfect. But we should enjoy the fact that we've managed to cut the knot, despite many doubts from the outside. That we have managed to reawaken hope in people for this great tournament in the summer," he said.