Boniface, Tella win maiden Bundesliga title with imperious Leverkusen

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Bayer Leverkusen’s record-breaking run to their first Bundesliga title was no fluke, with a 16-month plan coming to fruition.

The team which parade two Super Eagles players, Victor Boniface and Nathan Tella, made sure of their first trophy in 31 years with five matches left in the season, snapping Bayern Munich’s 11-year stranglehold on the Bundesliga.

Sunday’s 5-0 home victory over Werder Bremen further stretched Leverkusen’s Bundesliga record unbeaten run to 29 games – 25 wins and four draws to chalk up 79 points.

Coach Xabi Alonso took over a struggling Leverkusen side in October 2022 with the team second-bottom after eight Bundesliga games, having their worst start to a season since 1979.

After a few months it became clear the Spaniard had successfully injected a winning mentality, with his team racing up the table to finish in sixth place.

But it was during that rise in form in late 2022 when Alonso and the club set the foundations for this season’s success.

With all eyes on the World Cup in Qatar, club bosses in Leverkusen sat down with Alonso to map out their transfer plans and put them into action early.

By July 2023 Leverkusen had assembled their full squad and went into pre-season training with no late additions in August or September, as is regularly the case with most teams.

These transfers included experienced Switzerland captain Granit Xhaka, who added steel in midfield, Germany international Jonas Hofmann, Alejandro Grimaldo, who provided nine goals and 11 assists as an attacking left-back having joined on a free transfer, and 23-year-old Nigeria striker Victor Boniface.

Long derided as ‘Neverkusen’ for their failure to win major titles despite coming close in the Bundesliga and also reaching the 2002 Champions League final, Leverkusen this season were anything but floundering in key moments.

Leverkusen are, however, far from done this season, having reached the German Cup final and taken a 2-0 first-leg lead in their Europa League quarterfinal against West Ham United.

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