David Alaba 20 Midfielder/Defender Bayern Munich
The full back is a player of huge importance in the modern game. Now as much a part of a team's attack as most traditional wingers, the full back is still required to be of sturdy resolve in defence too. It's a position that demands a limitless engine and the full range of attributes. It's no surprise, then, that some midfielders are now being converted into full backs and trained up on the defensive side, often with a good measure of success.
At the age of 20, Bayern Munich's David Alaba has already undergone the lion's share of this transformation. First used as a left back by Louis van Gaal, the baby-faced Austrian midfielder was deployed there again by Jupp Heynckes last season and it would be no surprise to see him settle there long term. He is after all at Bayern Munich, where the midfield berths are forever keenly contested and the channels he loves to run and run are occupied by somewhat more decorated and established players.
In defence, Alaba is already living up to his promise. According to Opta, he had a 75% tackle success rate in 2012 up to November 1st, with no fewer than 26 interceptions to his name in the same period, which amount to a little under 1,100 minutes on the field for Bayern.
Alaba's rise through the ranks at Bayern has been prodigious, and under Heynckes he has flourished. Last season he picked up minutes in 30 Bundesliga matches (16 as a substitute) and nine in the Champions League. In the back end of the German season Alaba won plaudits from all over, and were it not for injury he'd surely have started Bayern's impressive 2012/13 campaign in equally imperious form. They love him at the Allianz, and with good reason. Alaba is a livewire; a relentless, tightly-wound ball of energy with no shortage of technical ability to boot.
As a newly rooted regular for Austria, he retains his position in midfield, and it is in Das Team's colours that he kick-started his own season and revived a calendar year that has brought him into the mainstream football consciousness. Having not featured for Bayern before the second international break of the season in October, Alaba returned from a stress fracture injury to his foot in time to lead his country past Kazakhstan, scoring once and assisting twice for Marc Janko as Austria won 4-0 in a World Cup qualifying match.
Heynckes had said that he didn't feel Alaba was ready to return to first class football and that he believed Austria coach Marcel Koller would be "smart enough to rely on other players". Some hope.
Alaba, the son of a Philippino mother and a Nigerian father, was taken to SV Aspern at the age of ten and was the archetypal football-loving youngster. After school, it was off to meet up with his friends to kick a ball around. In his own words, Alaba "grew up with a football" - he's one of those players that talks about going to bed with a football at night and waking up with it in the morning.
That love of the ball comes through in Alaba's style of play. When attacking he possesses phenomenal pace and the wherewithal to use it effectively in a way some less refined speedy players cannot. He simply knocks the ball beyond his man and then blazes past him with an ease that sometimes approaches contempt. It's all part of a real confidence that seems to drive Alaba's game - because he is so composed on the ball and aware of his surroundings, in his midfield days he pops up in various positions and is comfortable in them all.
He has good balance and a decent enough end product for a player at his stage of development, but his is a game based on more than elegance and ability. He likes to mix it with the stronger players too, springing firmly into robust aerial challenges, nibbling away to regain possession and often nipping in at pace to whip the ball away from a dozing opponent in receipt of a short pass. Or, rather, expecting to soon be in receipt of a short pass that never arrives.
With Holger Badstuber holding down the left back position during Alaba's absence, the vibrant young Austrian has his work cut out in the fight to make the spot his own. Judging by the impact he made in the first half of this year and on his Austria return, it would take a stupid man to bet against him.
“2012 has been a transformative year for Alaba. In the 2011/12 season he went from promising youngster and squad player to establishing himself as a starter at Bayern and quickly turned into one of the most consistent and dynamic left backs in Europe as Bayern marched to the Champions League final." - Cristian Nyari (Bundesliga Fanatic)
B A change is as good as a rest, and Alaba's had both
FC Bayern München
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