Bayer Leverkusen has reached the semi-finals of a European Cup competition for the first time in 21 years. And is the last German Bundesliga club there.
Captain Lukas Hradecky stood with the journalists more than half an hour after the final whistle and happily considered how many beers would be allowed on the three-hour bus ride home.
But suddenly club boss Fernando Carro called him back onto the lawn. “You have to come out! This is crazy,” said Carro. Because the approximately 1,500 fans of Bayer Leverkusen were still singing in a continuous loop and challenged and celebrated each of their players individually after reaching the semi-finals in the Europa League.
Hradecky went out. But the Finn, a self-confessed friend of a celebration beer, was already thinking about the journey home. “There was nothing in the dressing room,” said the goalkeeper after the 4-1 win at Union Saint-Gilloise in beer country Belgium: “But I know our bus driver. He must have made sure of that.”
“Everyone needs to know how much they can drink”
And Hradecky was sure that coach Xabi Alonso would turn a blind eye to the number of cold drinks. “Xabi is very relaxed there. He used to be a player too,” said Hradecky about the former world and European champion. “Everyone has to know how much they can drink,” he warned himself initially in his capacity as captain: “But five are certainly allowed.”
For Hradecky there should have been a few more after Jonathan Tah. “I don’t drink that much alcohol,” said the defense chief, who has been outstanding for weeks: “But Lukas is welcome to drink one or two for me.” And sports director Simon Rolfes, who drove home from Brussels instead of taking the bus, only gave the players a cautious warning. “Oh, one or the other thing is fine,” said the ex-national player: “But life as a footballer is also hard. It continues on Sunday. That’s why not so many.”
“Bundesliga is still extremely important”
Then it’s off to RB Leipzig, who are fourth and currently have the last place in the Champions League hoped for by Bayer. With Leverkusen seven points behind, the game on the sixth last matchday is probably the last chance to still get involved in the race for the premier class via the league.
On the other hand, the title in the Europa League would also solve the ticket for the Champions League. In any case, one tries to do the balancing act between the two competitions, assured Rolfes. “We don’t rely on just one. Absolutely not,” assured Rolfes: “The Bundesliga is still extremely important.” AS Roma with coach José Mourinho are waiting in the semi-finals of the Europa League on May 11th and 18th. (dpa)
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