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For the first time in their 119-year history, Bayer Leverkusen are champions of Germany. A 5-0 thrashing of Werder Bremen on Sunday wrapped up the title on Matchday 29 as the undefeated, ultra-impressive team of Xabi Alonso scored four times in the second half. Victor Boniface scored the opener from the spot in the 25th minute while Granit Xhaka grabbed his goal in the 60th minute before star Florian Wirtz scored a hat trick in the final 22 minutes of the game. 

No more "Neverkusen"

The title is the first Bundesliga win for a club who had previously held the record for most second-place finishes without lifting the crown. That in no small part played into their brandishing as Neverkusen, a club who for many in Germany and beyond were defined by a 2001-02 season where they contrived to finish second to Bayern Munich in the final weeks of the season before losing in the finals of the DfB Pokal and Champions League. A first domestic league title will make a welcome addition to a trophy cabinet that so far comprises just two senior honors, the 1988 UEFA Cup and the 1993 German Cup.

By the end of the season, Xabi Alonso could well have doubled the list of major honors at the Bay Arena. His side are strong favorites to win May's cup final against second-tier Kaiserslautern, they are also among the front runners to win the Europa League.

Leverkusen's win ends Bayern's 11-year reign at the top of the Bundesliga, a feat most would have thought unimaginable at the end of a summer which saw Thomas Tuchel's side strengthened by the additions of Min-Jae Kim and, most notably, Harry Kane, whose remarkable goalscoring season was not even enough to keep his side in the hunt for top spot. Even if Germany's footballing superpower were to be toppled there was no guarantee it would be Leverkusen to do it. In his first senior job, Alonso had dragged them up from the relegation zone since his appointment in December 2022, but Leverkusen were strong outsiders to win the title at the start of his first full season, priced at +4000 with bookmakers.

Even when CBS Sports spent several days inside the Leverkusen setup in November, serious talk of a title charge was off limits. "The challenge now is not up against Bayern, it's against what we can do," said Alonso. He was right. His side kept winning, such that it did not really matter that the competition were putting up spectacular goalscoring numbers. Leverkusen pulled decisively clear at the top with a 3-0 win over Bayern in February, a tactical triumph for Alonso that only served to heighten demand for him around the world.

When the announcement came from Saberner Strassed in February that Tuchel would be leaving at the end of the season it came with the suspicion that Bayern were trying to position themselves at the head of the queue for Alonso's services next summer. Another of his former clubs, Liverpool, were also on the hunt for their Jurgen Klopp successor. Then came the most remarkable turn in Leverkusen's season.

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More than just a one-hit wonder

This wasn't going to be another Monaco, Ajax or even the Leverkusen of 2002, stripped for parts by Bayern and the rest of Europe's monied elite. Instead, on March 29, Alonso announced he would be staying for the 2024-25 season. "At this moment I feel this is the right place for me to be to develop as a coach," he said. "I am a young coach, but I have to feel it, and right now I feel that this is the right place."

Crucial to that sense is the belief that he has a team ready to develop alongside him. That will mean keeping the core of the squad together. There may be a sale in the vein of Moussa Diaby's $64.5 million move to Aston Villa; Jeremie Frimpong has consistently been linked with big clubs in England and the rest of Europe and sources around the game believe he could be one of the more likely to depart. However, that deal part-funded the acquisition of first-team lynchpins Granit Xhaka, Alejandro Grimaldo, Jonas Hoffman and Victor Boniface, so one sale ought not to inspire fear in the Leverkusen ranks.

Crucially, some of the most significant figures in the Leverkusen ranks are intent on staying with Alonso. Florian Wirtz, perhaps Europe's outstanding young creator, is set to stay for next season. Given the more cautious outlook for Premier League expenditure this summer, the prospects of keeping young talent such as Boniface, Piero Hincapie and Exequiel Palacios are also rosier.

The good times, then, may not be over for the German champions.