David Alaba: FC Bayern’s Diamond in the Rough
Bayern former manager Pep Guardiola summed it up in a concise but very effective statement, “David Alaba is Our God.”
At the young age of 24, David Alaba has accomplished much there is to accomplish in the soccer world. He has won five German Bundesliga championships, four DFB Cup titles, is a two-time Austrian Sports Personality of the Year recipient and a five-time Austrian Player of the Year. Alaba has attained all of these accolades and he is still not considered the best player on his club team. The answer is, why? Playing alongside soccer legends such as Robert Lewandowski, Phillip Lahm, Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller makes it understandable why the exceptional play of Alaba is overlooked. It is quite unfortunate though because Alaba’s elite versatility is something that needs to be recognized not only by Bayern Munich, but by the whole world. A soccer ball has been attached to David’s foot from a very young age, but a strong family background is a testament to his hard work and strong-willed mindset.
David Olatukunbo Alaba was born on June 24, 1996 in Vienna, Austria. Alaba’s mother Gina is a former Miss Philippines winner. George Alaba, David’s father is the first black Gardesolat in the Austrian Army which shows where David’s strength comes from. Soccer is extremely popular in Austrian culture so it was only a matter of time till David found his love for the game. At age 10, David signed with the youth affiliate of FK Austria Wien. Flying through the youth ranks, David was light years ahead of his peers. At 16, he then was admitted into FC Bayern Munich’s prestigious youth academy, Sabener Strasse. David’s unparalleled skillset was noticed right away by Bayern’s staff and on January 7th, 2008, Alaba signed an official contract to play with Bayern Munich’s First Team. The rest is history.
I can go all day speaking about Alaba’s accomplishments in his short career, but we have google for that one. David’s versatility on the soccer field is extremely unique and not many players around the world can play multiple positions at such a high level like him. On Bayern Munich’s roster, Alaba is listed as solely a defender, but his skillset says otherwise. While most players are cemented at one position throughout their careers, Alaba moves around quite often. This season alone he has been spotted at mainly center-back but also at left-back and center midfield.
Former Bayern Munich Manager Louis Van Gaal stated, “He isn’t good, he’s very good. Alaba is a left-back, although he doesn’t know it yet.”
Alaba gets the position question quite often within his interviews but when asked constantly he always states, “I’m just happy to play anywhere.”
Alaba wanted to showcase his versatility to the world and used the 2012 Champions League semi-finals as his coming out party. Matching up against a star-studded Real Madrid roster including Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria, Alaba seized the moment. He was flawless. He was instrumental in keeping Ronaldo and Di Maria off the goal, which is something that is not an easy accomplishment. After receiving a questionable penalty five minutes into play, Alaba kept his composure and played the remaining 115 minutes without missing a beat. When the game went into penalty kicks, who else would step up to take the first shot even though he played defender? None other than, Alaba. He stepped up, cool as ever, and converted the first penalty shot which helped propel Bayern Munich into the 2012 Champions League final. This game automatically threw David Alaba into the conversation of the top left-back in the world.
Carlo Ancelotti, Bayern manager, implements a 4-3-3 system for his squad which suits Alaba well. This formation gives Alaba an opportunity to roam free within the attacking third. Standing at 5 feet 11 inches, weighing 170 pounds, Alaba has the body type to fly around the pitch at an alarming rate. He has excellent footwork, superb acceleration and is constantly in a full sprint. He has the dribbling and passing skills that parallel a midfielder while his cuts and attacking habits resembles those of a bonafide striker.
When asked who he emulates his distinct game after, David Alaba refers to a specific idol who he grew up watching. Alaba revealed that his idol as a young kid was Patrick Vieira, Arsenal legend.
“What a player! He inspired me through his presence, his style of play, his strong personality. I was a fan of Arsenal, who dominated everything around 10 years ago. I only had eyes for Vieira. Our styles don’t resemble each other particularly but in this position he’s an example, notably in his way of imposing himself in duels.”
(Pictured: Alaba posing with his childhood idol Patrick Vieira at Bayern’s Practice Facility)
Alaba also loves the skillset of Cesc Fabregas. “Fabregas is my role model. Technically, he can do everything, and he exudes calm.”
David Alaba is the ultimate coach’s dream. When asked to do something on the field regardless of what that may entail, Alaba listens attentively and performs with endless confidence. Sometimes he is instructed to line up and take the free-kick and as most defenders would look at their managers with a face of question, Alaba nods lightly and goes to handle his business.
Clark Whitney of Bleacher Report quotes, “Alaba just switches from position to position seamlessly, showing incredibly instincts and understanding of the game as well as supreme confidence.”
Alaba’s relentless mindset on the field has been noticed by not only spectators, but by his teammates as well. Bayern teammate and International football legend, Franck Ribery raves about his superstar of a teammate.
“When he was 16, I met him at a youth academy. He has worked very hard and he made it. David is very experienced although he is so young,” says Ribery.
“For me, he is a great player and the best left-back in the world. I prefer playing with him, and he is glad when I am on the pitch as well. There is an understanding between us.”
Alaba values his relationship with Ribery on and off the field. He respects Ribery’s accomplishments on the field and is a sponge when receiving advice or even just watching Ribery play. Alaba often refers to Franck as his “big brother” & “friend for life” and their relationship stems back from when Alaba first began training with Bayern Munich.
“Franck hasn’t stopped giving me advice,” explains Alaba. “The advice that struck me most was when he said that I had to first prove myself on the pitching before aiming for nice cars or luxury clothes and that I should in no case cut any corners. I’m very grateful to him for that. He played an important role in my journey.”
One may ask, so if Alaba is so talented, why is his player rating so low in EA Sports FIFA 16? When promoting the release of the game, EA released weekly rankings of the top 50 players within the game. EA Sports ranked David Alaba as the 46th best player in the world and the gaming community went haywire.
Phillip Quinn of SB Nation quotes, “Alaba’s overall rating for the game is an 85 which puts him level with every single player ranked in spots 50-41. However, is EA really going to try and convince anyone that can a watch a game that Naldo, John Terry, and Santi Cazorla are better than Mr. Alaba? I dare say that they better not.”
(FIFA 16 Player Card on David Alaba)
It seems that regardless of how many times Alaba tries to prove the haters wrong, they constantly have something to say. He might not be the flashiest, or have the best post-goal celebration, but he consistently gets the job done which is most important. At the budding age of 24, Alaba’s best soccer days are still ahead of him which is frightening. If he keeps a good head on his shoulders and a emphatic work ethic, his name will eventually go down as one of the all time greatest to ever lace up a pair of cleats.