Bayer Leverkusen's Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal double was the result of players keeping faith in the team throughout what turned into a dream season, so says Xabi Alonso.

Leverkusen added the Pokal to their Bundesliga crown with a 1-0 victory over second-tier Kaiserslautern.

Granit Xhaka scored the only goal of the game as he arrowed in from distance in the 16th minute.

"In the end, to win like that meant we showed spirit, we fought for the fans for the club," said Alonso.

"It is a huge success to win the double. We will remember this in the future."

Leverkusen lost only one of 53 matches across all competitions this season, with that sole defeat coming in Wednesday's Europa League final against Atalanta, denying them a treble.

"The most important thing was the belief of the team. They were ready to battle with 10 players and I am proud of that," Alonso said.

"I need time to accept what happened this season. It was a dream season and to celebrate the last day like this here is special."

Leverkusen will be looking to build on their success next season, with Alonso having snubbed the advances of Liverpool and Bayern Munich in order to stay at the club.

Bundesliga champions Bayer Leverkusen battled past second-tier Kaiserslautern 1-0 on Saturday to win the DFB-Pokal and secure the club's first domestic double.

Leverkusen missed out on a treble after losing 3-0 to Atalanta in the Europa League final on Wednesday, in what was astonishingly their first defeat of the season in all competitions, after a European record 51-game unbeaten run.

But at Berlin's Olympic stadium, which will host the Euro 2024 final in July, Xabi Alonso's side ensured they capped off a remarkable campaign with another piece of silverware thanks to Granit Xhaka's stunning 16th-minute strike.

The ball rolled out to the former Arsenal man around 25 yards out, and he planted an unstoppable first-time effort into the left-hand side of the net.

They controlled the pace even after they were reduced to 10 men following Odilon Kossounou's second booking a minute before half-time.

Kaiserslautern rarely threatened after the break, with Leverkusen limiting their opponents to just 0.2 expected goals.

And even though they could not add to their lead, Leverkusen were able to comfortably wrap up their second trophy of the best season in the club's history.

Data Debrief: Leverkusen join the club

Leverkusen are only the fifth different side to win the double in Germany since the Bundesliga was founded, after Bayern Munich (13 times), 1. Koln, Werder Bremen and Borussia Dortmund.

Xhaka's strike was a worthy winner. He became the first Swiss player to score in a DFB-Pokal final.

Bayer Leverkusen have quickly put Wednesday's Europa League final defeat to Atalanta behind them, says coach Xabi Alonso.

The freshly-crowned Bundesliga champions can clinch a first-ever domestic double with victory over second-division Kaiserslautern in Saturday's final.

Leverkusen had the opportunity to complete an unbeaten treble but saw their 51-match unbeaten run in all competitions ended in the Europa League final on Wednesday when they lost 3-0 to Atalanta.

Now, they have the opportunity to cap an already memorable season by winning the DFB-Pokal.

"It was a long way to get here, since August last year," said Alonso of Saturday's showcase at Berlin's Olympic stadium.

"We are here. It is great to have the last game of the season as a final. After Wednesday, we are ready and focused for tomorrow. We have to have the hunger and I think after Wednesday we have it more."

Prior to this season's Bundesliga title, Leverkusen's last trophy was the 1993 DFB-Pokal.

Alonso said the team had little time to review their first defeat of the season, but they had already put the loss behind them, having a shot at the double.

"The time for analysis is short because our focus is now on tomorrow. What happened on Wednesday hopefully will not have much influence," Alonso added.

"We have to continue after the defeat. The goal is big. Tomorrow we can cap it with the Cup. Dublin is gone and behind us, and now we think about Berlin."

Gian Piero Gasperini hails Atalanta’s Europa League win as a "footballing fairytale" after beating Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 in the final on Wednesday.

Ademola Lookman scored a hat-trick to secure Atalanta’s first-ever major European trophy, and just a second in their history - after the Coppa Italia in 1963.

The Bergamo side also became the first Italian team to win the Europa League since its rebrand in 2009, with Parma in 1999 the last Serie A side to win the UEFA Cup.

Atalanta’s victory also ended a 51-game unbeaten run for Leverkusen in all competitions, topping an already dazzling Europa League.

Gasperini, who is now the oldest coach to win his debut major European final, praised his side for their historic win.

"Hugely proud for all of Italy, because it was a cursed trophy, even if it was only Inter and Roma who made the final over the last 25 years and lost," Gasperini told reporters.

"Having won it with Atalanta is perhaps one of those footballing fairytales that very rarely happens, and it does show there's still room for meritocracy in football.

"There's still room for ideas, and it doesn't only come down to numbers and the super league [clubs].

"We produced a wonderful performance, and we needed to do that against such a top side [in Bayer Leverkusen]. We scored three splendid goals."

Bayer Leverkusen were "not interested" in maintaining their unbeaten record, according to Granit Xhaka, who acknowledged his frustrations after Wednesday's Europa League final disappointment.

Xabi Alonso's Bundesliga champions had not suffered defeat since the final game of last season against Bochum, but succumbed to their next loss in the decisive moment against Atalanta in Dublin.

Ademola Lookman stole the headlines with a remarkable hat-trick, powering Gian Piero Gasperini's team to their first title in 61 years, when Atalanta won the Coppa Italia.

A 3-0 defeat ensured Leverkusen will have to settle for, at most, a domestic double as they look to bounce back on Saturday in the DFB-Pokal final.

Yet Xhaka insisted Alonso's side never had the undefeated streak in their minds as soon as kick-off arrived at the Aviva Stadium.

"Honestly, we're not interested in the unbeaten record," the former Arsenal midfielder said to RTL. "We didn't care about that from the start.

"It's about the game and unfortunately we lost a final today. That's football.

"We said yesterday that it would be a difficult game. Compliments to Atalanta."

Leverkusen's unbeaten streak spanned nine months and 51 games this season, starting their 2023-24 campaign with a first-round DFB-Pokal thrashing of lowly Teutonia Ottensen in mid-August.

Alonso's impressive men triumphed in 42 of those matches during their historic unbeaten run across all competitions, drawing the other nine as Leverkusen coasted to their first Bundesliga title in history.

Scoring 143 goals and conceding just 39 across that dominant period, not many would have expected Gasperini's side to shutout Leverkusen and beat goalkeeper Matej Kovar three times in the process.

Leverkusen are the first league-title winners to lose the UEFA Cup/Europa League final in the same season since Benfica in 2013-14, and the first German side to do since Borussia Dortmund in 2001-02.

In single-game only finals, this was also the biggest margin of defeat for a German team since Eintracht Frankfurt lost 7-3 to Real Madrid in the 1960 European Cup, perhaps explaining Xhaka's annoyance.

Xabi Alonso will not allow Bayer Leverkusen's Europa League final defeat against Atalanta to alter his pride, after their historic 51-game unbeaten run ended on Wednesday.

The Bundesliga champions were eyeing an unlikely treble, with the DFB-Pokal final to come this weekend, but those plans came crashing down in a 3-0 loss to Atalanta.

Ademola Lookman single-handedly powered Gian Piero Gasperini's side to their first title in 61 years, producing an individual performance for the ages with a decisive hat-trick.

European heartbreak marked Leverkusen's first loss this season, with their last defeat coming to Bochum on the last day of the 2022-23 Bundesliga campaign, as Alonso's side were finally stopped.

Yet the former Liverpool and Bayern Munich midfielder says nothing can take away from Leverkusen's memorable campaign.

"For me the result today does not change one bit how I feel about my players or what we have been doing," the Leverkusen head coach told TNT Sports.

"It hurts because we wanted to lift the trophy but you can't have everything. We lifted the Bundesliga and we have the chance to lift the DFB-Pokal on Saturday."

Leverkusen are the first team to win the league title but lose the UEFA Cup/Europa League final in the same term since Benfica in 2013-14, and the first German side to do since Borussia Dortmund in 2001-02.

"This season and achievements have surpassed all expectations," Alonso continued.

"I was hoping and getting ready to maybe do something great but this has been so much more.

"To achieve what we have for a club like Leverkusen is great. To be in the last week of the season having lifted the Bundesliga and then going for the Pokal too means a lot.

"First year as a coach, it is going quite well!"

A monumental occasion at the Aviva Stadium marked Atalanta's first-ever major European trophy as they became the 10th different Italian side to do so, second only to teams from England (13).

Alonso was unsurprised by the excellence of Gasperini and his Atalanta side, however.

"It is not something they have just done this year, they have been doing it for many years," the Spaniard said, acknowledging the work of 66-year-old Gasperini.

"They are a special team. Normally we get in better positions ourselves but today we could not.

"We were not able to come back and get that back. It was not meant to be.

"The unbeaten run has come to an end but congratulations to Atalanta, they deserve it, so nothing more to say."

Gian Piero Gasperini and Ademola Lookman both cherished creating Atalanta history after ending Bayer Leverkusen's unbeaten run and securing Europa League glory.

Lookman produced a performance worthy of the most important European moment in Atalanta's history, securing the club's first-ever major trophy on the continent after his dazzling hat-trick.

The Nigeria winger is just the sixth player to manage a treble in a major UEFA final and the first since Jupp Heynckes’ for Borussia Mönchengladbach against Twente in 1975.

Lookman will be the toast of Bergamo when Gasperini's side head home, boasting their first trophy in 61 years – after the Coppa Italia – following a 3-0 triumph to end Leverkusen's 51-game unbeaten run.

"One of the best nights of my life," the hat-trick hero told TNT Sports in Dublin.

"Amazing performance from the team, we did it, we did it, we did it! I haven't got much else to say, but fantastic."

Lookman is also just the second player to score a treble for an Italian side in the final of a major European competition, after Pierino Prati for Milan against Ajax in the 1969 European Cup

Preparing to leave the Aviva Stadium with the Europa League trophy in hand, Lookman could not wait to celebrate a seismic moment in the club's history.

"We've got to celebrate, we made history tonight," he added.

Gasperini, aged 66 years and 117 days on Wednesday, is the oldest coach to win his debut major European final, and the second Italian coach to win the Europa League after Maurizio Sarri in 2019.

The veteran Atalanta mastermind echoed Lookman's sentiment, after securing just a second trophy in the Italian club's history.

"I think we wrote history, also for the way we won it," said Gasperini, speaking to UEFA's official media channels.

"It was just extraordinary, we defeated Liverpool, Sporting who won the championship. When we faced Liverpool they were first in the Premier League... And now the German champions.

"Incredible. The boys were extraordinary, a memorable performance."

Ademola Lookman will be the toast of Bergamo after his hat-trick inspired Atalanta to Europa League glory, ending Bayer Leverkusen's 51-game unbeaten run after a 3-0 defeat in Dublin.

Nigeria winger Lookman is just the second player to score a treble for an Italian side in the final of a major European competition, after Pierino Prati for Milan against Ajax in the 1969 European Cup.

His single-handed match-winning heroics secured Atalanta's first-ever major European trophy as they became the 10th different Italian side to do so, second only to teams from England (13).

The records continued to tumble for Lookman, whose hat-trick was the sixth in a major UEFA final and the first since Jupp Heynckes’ for Borussia Mönchengladbach against Twente in 1975.

Having no response to a performance for the ages, Leverkusen suffered their first defeat since their final game of the 2022-23 season, ending a 361-day unbeaten run from last losing 3-0 to Bochum.

Gian Piero Gasperini's masterclass will etch his name into Atalanta history, with the Italian – aged 66 years and 117 days on Wednesday – the fourth oldest manager to win a major European trophy.

Only Raymond Goethals (71y 231d, 1993 Champions League), Heynckes (68y 16d, 2013 Champions League) and Alex Ferguson (66y 142d, 2008 Champions League), have done so at an older age.

Owing to Gasperini's genius and Lookman's quality, Atalanta are the first Italian side to lift the Europa League trophy since its rebrand in 2009, with Parma in 1999 the last Serie A side to win the UEFA Cup.

Alonso will hope to bounce back in Saturday's DFB-Pokal final but the Bundesliga champions are the first team to win the league title but lose the UEFA Cup/Europa League final in the same season since Benfica in 2013-14, and the first German side to do since Borussia Dortmund in 2001-02.

Ademola Lookman produced a performance for the ages as his hat-trick ended Bayer Leverkusen's 51-game unbeaten streak and saw Atalanta claim the Europa League with a 3-0 win in Dublin.

Xabi Alonso's Bundesliga title champions were eyeing an unlikely treble this season, but those plans came to a crashing halt as Atalanta secured their first-ever European silverware.

Lookman did the early damage with his first-half brace, the second of which was an eye-catching solo strike, as Gian Piero Gasperini's Serie A side seized unexpected control on Wednesday.

Comeback masters Leverkusen may have fancied a late fightback but Lookman's thumping 75th-minute finish completed his hat-trick and ensured Alonso's team suffered defeat for the first time this season, in what was their penultimate match of an exceptional campaign.

Leverkusen were punished for a slow start as Atalanta, making their maiden appearance in a European final, capitalised with just 12 minutes gone at the Aviva Stadium.

Exequiel Palacios was caught unaware at the back post as Davide Zappacosta slammed a low right-sided cross for Lookman to fire into the top-left corner from close range.

Lookman doubled his tally 14 minutes later, coolly flicking through the legs of Granit Xhaka before curling a right-footed finish into the bottom-right corner from the cusp of Leverkusen's area.

Alex Grimaldo should have responded shortly after but aimed a timid lob straight at the onrushing Juan Musso, who gratefully grasped the chipped effort when way out of his goal.

Charles De Ketelaere fizzed into the hands of Matej Kovar, while Granit Xhaka whipped wide before Alonso introduced striker Victor Boniface at the break.

That alteration failed to change the tide as Jeremie Frimpong blazed over the only chance before the hour-mark – and there would be no way back after Lookman scored his third with 15 minutes remaining.

Gianluca Scamacca played a simple offload out to his left, with Lookman breezing past Edmond Tapsoba before cannoning a wonderful left-footed strike beyond Kovar to seal a famous night for the team from Bergamo.

Atalanta savour legend Lookman

Lookman has etched his name into Atalanta history after helping Gasperini's side become the first Italian side to win the Europa League.

The Nigeria international is the sixth player to score a hat-trick in the final of a major UEFA competition, and the first since Jupp Heynckes' for Borussia Monchengladbach in the 1975 UEFA Cup.

Lookman's match-winning heroics will live long in the memory of Atalanta supporters, who will cherish just their second major trophy in club history – 61 years after winning the Coppa Italia.

Neverlusen comes to an end

Prior to this stunning defeat, Leverkusen were undefeated in all 12 Europa League games this season (W9 D3) and aiming to become the fourth side to win the trophy unbeaten, along with Chelsea in 2018-19, Villarreal in 2020-21 and Eintracht Frankfurt in 2021-22.

Adding in their nine-month unbeaten run, which spanned back to a first-round DFB-Pokal thrashing of Teutonia Ottensen in mid-August, Alonso's side appeared the favourites for this clash.

Yet form went out the window as Atalanta – who also eliminated Liverpool in the quarter-finals – inflicted Leverkusen's first defeat across all competitions in 361 days, and Alonso must now rally his troops for the DFB-Pokal final on Saturday.

Florian Wirtz will stay at Bayer Leverkusen next season despite interest from Europe's elite clubs, says Die Werkself's managing director Simon Rolfes.

Wirtz has been in irresistible form throughout Xabi Alonso's first full season at the BayArena, which could yet end with an unbeaten treble.

Leverkusen won 28 of their 34 games as they became the first team to go unbeaten through a Bundesliga campaign, and they face a pair of finals this week – against Atalanta in the Europa League and Kaiserslautern in the DFB-Pokal.

Wirtz was named Bundesliga Player of the Year earlier this week, having scored 11 goals and provided 11 assists throughout the campaign. He has also been involved in eight goals (four goals, four assists) and created 28 chances from open play in the Europa League this term.

That form has reportedly put the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City and Manchester United on alert, but Leverkusen are not entertaining a sale.

"He will stay. His father and agent said it before. He has a contract here and he's really happy," Rolfes told Sky Sports.

"This is the right place for him to develop as a player and person. His future is bright, that's for sure. He is such a good player and shows a great will to win and to work. 

"It's not normally the attribute of a number 10 but he combines talent with the work rate of a six or a defensive player along with producing special magic moments."

When Bayern Munich last failed to win the Bundesliga title in 2012, they responded by raiding rivals Borussia Dortmund for the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Mario Gotze and Mats Hummels over the next few years.

Asked if Leverkusen had any concerns about that happening to them, Rolfes said: "For sure 10, 15 or 20 years ago that was a normal thing but things are changing. The European environment has changed a lot. 

"It's an international market now with the Premier League, and clubs in Spain, Italy and France as well."

Bayern were, alongside Liverpool, unsuccessful in attempting to lure Alonso away from Westphalia, and Rolfes says he was always convinced the Spaniard would stay.

"Maybe that was a little more special but I'm always convinced you have to concentrate on your strengths," he said. 

"I was convinced we could offer a lot to him and our players with other interest in them. That's why I was always calm."

 

Atalanta captain Marten de Roon believes they have what it takes to end Bayer Leverkusen’s unbeaten season in the Europa League final.

De Roon will not be available for La Dea in Dublin on Wednesday due to injury but has joined up with the squad to offer his support.

Atalanta have had a memorable campaign, reaching their first European final and qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Leverkusen, meanwhile, claimed their first-ever Bundesliga title without losing a single game and are aiming to complete a treble.

Despite coming up against a tough opponent, De Roon is confident that his side will be able to end their 61-year drought without a major trophy.

"Every team is beatable. At the moment, [Leverkusen] seem unbeatable, but maybe we are the ones who can change that," he said in the pre-match press conference.

"We have to believe in our philosophy, play attacking football and try to beat them. You don't win a trophy if you don't beat the best.

"We have had a great campaign, and we fully deserve to be here. Both sides deserve to be playing this final. Let's see who will manage to lift the trophy.

Atalanta narrowly missed out in the Coppa Italia final to Juventus earlier this month, and Gian Piero Gasperini is now preparing to manage his first-ever European final.

The Italian praised Leverkusen but stressed the belief he has in his own team after an impressive campaign.

He said: "We are aware that we are facing a great team. We know that they are undefeated, and we know that they have had an amazing season.

"Our journey, however, was also very good as we beat very strong teams to reach the final, and we also have belief.

"Leverkusen are a complete team; extremely organised. They are versatile, they can defend and recover the ball well.

"The results they have achieved this season are not an accident. Certainly, small details can make the difference in a final. We have to respect them and try to adapt quickly to the opponents we are facing."

Xabi Alonso says Bayer Leverkusen are driven by self-confidence in their ability to win games ahead of the Europa League final.

Leverkusen are chasing the second trophy in a potential treble against Atalanta in Dublin on Wednesday, with the DFB-Pokal final against Kaiserslautern to follow on Saturday.

The Bundesliga champions became the first German team to go unbeaten on their way to the title and are currently on a 51-match run without defeat in all competitions.

Alonso is taking charge of his first European final as a manager, but he believes his team will draw on the experience they have already gained this season.

"Our self-confidence keeps driving us on. We know that we can produce goals until the final minute," he said in his pre-match press conference. "That's a huge development that the team has made this season.

"From the start of the campaign, we believed in our brand of football and that's right at the heart of this successful run.

"We'll prepare like we did for all the games before. We haven't lost in 51 games, so my boys know how to adapt to different situations. That also applies to the final.

"What matters above all tomorrow is mentality. We have a game plan, but the players still have that wonderful atmosphere from the title celebrations on Saturday, and we want to tap into that."

Alonso is the youngest coach to manage a men’s European final since Roberto Di Matteo oversaw Chelsea’s Champions League victory in 2012.

He will also become just the fourth person to play in and manage a major European final this century after also playing in the 2005 and 2007 Champions League finals with Liverpool.

Reflecting on his time at Leverkusen, Alonso said: "I was so young in this coach career, so when I was offered the Leverkusen job, so it was 'let's go, let's see what happens'.

"In one year and a half, so much has happened; it has been a great experience, and it has only been a year and a half, but we have made so many right decisions.

"I think we have great chemistry.  The mentality we have shown throughout the year has been fantastic. I am really enjoying it."

Xabi Alonso is hopeful that his Bayer Leverkusen side can make more history in their Europa League final against Atalanta on Wednesday.

Leverkusen became the first side in Bundesliga history to go unbeaten in a single season on their way to the top-flight title, and across all competitions, they have not lost any of their last 51 matches.

Now, they have the opportunity to complete an unbeaten treble if they can get past Atalanta before taking on Kaiserslautern in the DFB-Pokal on Saturday.

Only three sides have previously won the competition without losing a game – Chelsea in 2018-19, Villarreal in 2020-21 and Eintracht Frankfurt in 2021-22, with Leverkusen looking to be added to that list.

Alonso is taking charge of his first European final as a manager and highlights the ambition the club have to do something significant.

"It would mean a lot, a lot to me [to win a European trophy]," he told UEFA. "To be able to share it with the people from the club, with the fans.

"You see what it meant when we won the Bundesliga. To be able to win a European title after so many years since we won [the UEFA Cup in 1988] would be historic, and we want to do that, to have a historic season.

"It would be something written in golden letters, not only in the history of our club but probably all European football. I hope we can."

Like his counterpart, Atalanta manager Gian Piero Gasperini is also taking charge of a European final for the first time in his career.

The Italian side clinched a top-five finish in Serie A with their win over Lecce on Saturday and are looking to win their first major trophy in 61 years.

Looking back on the season, Gasperini says he is proud of the work his side have done to make it through to the club's first European final.

"It feels good," Gasperini said. "It's a great achievement and source of satisfaction, achieved with a really good season from this whole team.

"Is it the highest point of my career? Yes, in terms of accomplishment and prestige, absolutely. In terms of gratification, fortunately, I've had quite a few, although perhaps not on the same level.

"This team always wanted it. Sometimes, you get teams who are good technically but lacking in determination and hunger.

"From the start, from the group stage, since we played in Lisbon, in a group where we were not the favourites – Sporting [CP] were the favourites – we played great matches against strong opponents. Of course, winning at Anfield boosted our confidence even more."

Florian Wirtz played a starring role for Bayer Leverkusen this season and has been named the Bundesliga Player of the Year.

Wirtz scored 11 goals and provided a further 11 assists on the way to helping Leverkusen win their first-ever top-flight title.

The forward was pivotal in Leverkusen’s title charge as they became the first German team to complete an unbeaten season.

Only Victor Boniface has scored more goals than Wirtz this campaign, netting 14 times, while his tally of 11 assists is second only to Alejandro Grimaldo (13) across the Bundesliga.

Wirtz came off the bench to score a hat-trick in Leverkusen’s 5-0 win over Werder Bremen in April which clinched the title with five games remaining.

The Bundesliga champions still have the German Cup final on Saturday against Kaiserslautern, which follows the Europa League final against Atalanta on Wednesday.

Wirtz played a critical role in helping Leverkusen reach their third European final, having been involved in eight goals in the Europa League this season (four goals, four assists), the most of any player in the team.

He has also created 28 chances from open play in the competition, a tally only five players can better in a Europa League campaign, most recently Amin Younes for Ajax in 2016-17 (30).

In all competitions, Leverkusen’s unbeaten run stretches to 51 matches, as they aim to finish an unbeaten season with a treble.

Xabi Alonso says it will take time for Bayer Leverkusen's undefeated run to their maiden Bundesliga to sink in.

Long derided as 'Neverkusen' for their failure to win a major title for decades, Leverkusen became the first-ever team in the Bundesliga to complete a full season without a loss following a 2-1 victory over Augsburg in the season finale on Saturday.

In fact, across the top five European leagues, only Arsenal (2003-04) and Juventus (2011-12) have achieved an invincible season since the start of the millenium. 

The club hailed the achievement by giving themselves a new nickname on their social media channel - 'Bayer 04 Neverlusen'.

"It is an exceptional season, not only in Germany but in Europe," Alonso said in a press conference.

"We deserve now to be part of that history of European football. In 20 years, we will look back, and we will say 'we did that'.

"It is an important day for the club. We have to be proud of the way we played. 90 points and undefeated. We need a bit more time to value this title. The first Bundesliga title but a big Bundesliga title victory."

Alonso's team also stretched their European record unbeaten run across all competitions this season to 51 matches as they look to complete the treble next week. 

Leverkusen face Atalanta on Wednesday in the Europa League final before taking on Kaiserslautern in the German Cup final on May 25.

"I believe it [the unbeaten title win], but I need more time. But we have no time because we have the next big goal [on Wednesday]. It is unique opportunity," Alonso added.

"We will remember this day. It is a special day to have the league trophy here and having done it undefeated. This team has now been engraved in Bundesliga history."

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