Voeller: “Bayer are dominant, Roma are beautiful and disciplined – It will be a spectacle’


Former Roma and Bayer Leverkusen forward Rudi Voller is looking forward to the Europa League match between his two former sides: “It will be a spectacle.” Speaking with La Gazzetta dello Sport, the former German international previewed the match, explaining what he expects from either team:

Next Thursday, Bayer Leverkusen will face AS Roma in the Europa League semifinals, just like last year: how different is it from last season?

“First of all, it’s experiencing an exceptional moment; it won the German championship for the first time, you can imagine. Everywhere in Germany I go, people compliment the game, everyone acknowledges that it wasn’t a matter of luck or chance. And then there are other protagonists, compared to the semifinal where Roma passed.”

What can they offer more?

“This season, Bayer has added important players to the squad, like Granit Xhaka, the midfielder, who is the team’s great leader. Then there’s Victor Boniface, Alex Grimaldo, Patrick Schick, whom we also talked about in recent days regarding Roma. And many others. Last spring, it must be remembered that the coach had been here for only a few months, but now he has completed a full season, and it shows. Xabi Alonso is the best acquisition we could have made. I watch the home games, I don’t go to away games, but live you notice an incredible game.”

Why is that?

“Because it’s dominant football. It’s just like Pep Guardiola’s when he arrived in the Bundesliga, at Bayern. Leverkusen always controls the game, from the first to the last second. Always aggressive. It’s not a coincidence that they haven’t lost a single game in all competitions so far this season.”

Xabi Alonso immediately became a star among coaches: seen up close, what is he like, how does he work?

“Very talented person, always correct, he coaches as he played, with great style. And he has improved many players. I think of Jonathan Tah, the central defender: with Xabi Alonso, he has made an incredible leap forward. But he’s not the only one.”

Apart from the coach’s moves, one name above all to fear?

“Florian Wirtz, our protégé even in the national team, is a superstar: he’s even better than last year, he really makes the difference.”

Were you also surprised by the season or had you already seen something important in development?

“That it could compete for our title was evident even in the summer, but winning it this way was unexpected by anyone. In all the games I’ve seen, the victories were always deserved, only Stuttgart put them in difficulty; in the cup match, they were on par.”

Daniele De Rossi will be taking notes: how do you judge his adventure on the Roma bench?

“I’m happy for Roma, for Daniele. We exchanged some messages, various compliments. We’ve been friends for I don’t know how many years. He’s a very good guy, and he’s also becoming a great coach. I’m happy if he reaches the Champions League; he deserves it.”

Have you seen your Roma play?

“Yes, I’ve already seen them a couple of times: I liked them, they play in a different way from José Mourinho’s.”

Why is that?

“The players are very disciplined on the field; they have a clear system and tactics: it will also be difficult for Leverkusen, which will probably have more possession, but I’m sure it will be a high-level challenge, just like a European semifinal, beautiful for the people.”

And how will you experience it?

“I have been invited by Leverkusen for this trip. I’m happy to see a match at the Olimpico, with these exceptional fans, with this extraordinary spectacle. I’m happy because it’s also something special for me. It will be a strange sensation again this time, for what I did at Leverkusen and because Roma is an unforgettable story for me, and three of my five children were born in the city. I hope it will be a good match again in the return leg, here in Germany. The team that plays better and thus deserves to go through will reach the final.”


Serie A obsessive.