10 things on David Alaba, Bayern Munich's former teen prodigy turned Austrian hero
bundesliga.com has dug deep into Alaba’s life and career to draw a clearer picture of an extraordinary man and footballer.
1) Global family
The Alaba family is cosmopolitan with a capital C. Dad George is a Nigerian prince and arrived in Vienna to study Economics before becoming the first black guard soldier in the Austrian army — he is now a musician and DJ. David’s mother, Gina, is a nurse, but was named Miss Philippines, the country of her birth, in the 1980s. Born in the Austrian capital on 24 June, 1992, David often has the Filipino flag stitched onto his boots while he waved the Nigerian one on the pitch at Wembley after Bayern’s 2012/13 UEFA Champions League final win.
2) Child prodigy
“He played in the yard or on the playground with other children every day,” George Alaba explained when asked about David’s first steps in football. “Other parents saw him and were amazed at how he played.” That talent was first put to the service of local club Aspern before his father guided him towards Austria Vienna aged 10. By April 2008, at the age of 15, he was named on the first-team subs’ bench. A handful of weeks later, he was off to Bayern.
Watch: Check out Alaba’s top five Bundesliga free-kicks – there are some stunners in there!
3) Third time lucky
“I always hated Bayern,” admitted Alaba, who had twice turned down the Bundesliga record champions before eventually agreeing to move to Germany. “They had the best training kit and always came to youth tournaments in the nicest bus, and left celebrating.” He had been spotted at a youth tournament in Manchester by Bayern scout Werner Kern. “David is an exceptional talent with an excellent attitude, said Kern. “We think he can go very far.” He wasn’t wrong, was he?
4) Positional sense
Alaba’s versatility is the stuff of legend: he started as a playmaker at Austria Wien and has since reprised that role for his national team; he played as a defensive midfielder at Hoffenheim and has featured at centre-back for Bayern, but it is at left-back where he has excelled. The man to thank for putting him there? Louis van Gaal. “He’s a left-back, even though he doesn’t think so himself,” said the single-minded Dutchman, who isn’t the type to be argued with. And given Alaba’s performances there, we’re not about to start.
5) Record breaker
Alaba’s career has been one that has written and rewritten the football history books. “It’ll be a little while before they’re ready for the first team,” then-Bayern sporting director Christian Nerlinger had said in January 2010 when asked when Alaba, Mehmet Ekici and Diego Contento — all invited to the first-team’s winter training camp in Dubai — would play a senior game. If a month is ‘a little while’, then Nerlinger was right. On 10 February, Alaba became Bayern’s youngest debutant in a competitive match at 17 years 232 days, setting up Franck Ribery for a goal within 60 seconds of coming off the bench of his club’s DFB Cup tie against Fürth.
Watch: Alaba is Bayern’s master of all trades
6) And like a broken record…
Within a month, he had made his first start in the UEFA Champions League in a Round of 16 first leg tie in Florence against Fiorentina. “He played very well. And you absolutely didn’t see that it was his first game for us from the start,” said Bayern great Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. “He didn’t disappoint my faith in him,” said the hard-to-please Van Gaal, despite his team’s 3-2 defeat. “Hats off!” said a suitably impressed Bastian Schweinsteiger.
It was just the early days of a career which would lead to the Austrian full-back bringing up two centuries of Bundesliga appearances for Bayern at the age of 25, in the record champions’ 2-1 win over Schalke on Matchday 22 of the 2017/18 season.
7) Sinsheim school
Bayern often use loan spells to give their most promising youngsters a chance to gain Bundesliga experience before returning to take up a first-team place. Alaba joined Philipp Lahm, Toni Kroos as the most successful examples of that strategy when he came back from six fruitful months at Hoffenheim in summer 2011. “Personally, I think another year in Hoffenheim would do my development good,” Alaba stated at the end of his Sinsheim stint. Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes thought otherwise, brought him back to Bavaria and a year later, he had played in a UEFA Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid.
8) National hero
Austria is a country where downhill skiers and ski jumpers are the real gods, so for Alaba to become THE most recognisable face in his country’s sporting pantheon is quite some feat. He’s already been at it a while. Named in the Under-21 squad as a 17-year-old, Alaba was described as “a jewel, a blessing for Austrian football” by coach Andy Herzog. By October 2009, he was becoming his country’s youngest senior international while still a junior at 17 years and 112 days, and he was named Austrian Footballer of the Year for the first time in 2011 aged 19.
9) Alaba-in’s cave
That national gong was the first of six successive triumphs in the category. Pretty good going, but add to that his prodigious medal haul so far, and Alaba already has more trophies than many pros would win in three careers. Six Bundesligas, four DFB Cups, and a UEFA Champions League sit alongside a trio of Supercups, one UEFA Super Cup and a FIFA Club World Cup in the Alaba trophy cabinet … that must be some cabinet! He also had the honour of being pictured on the cover of the FIFA 15 and 16 game alongside Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.
“Talent is one thing, but attitude and desire is another, and David has this undying desire to improve and develop,” Kern said when Alaba had just moved to Bayern. “He has has that bite you need.” His nerveless ascent to Bayern first-team regular attests to that as do some of the things he has done on the pitch. Remember the penalty — his team’s first — he took in the 2011/12 semi-final against Madrid at the end of his breakthrough season at Bayern? “You have to wonder about the self-belief and coolheadedness he has,” Uli Hoeness noted admiringly afterwards. What Herr Hoeness had to say about Alaba’s Panenka-style chipped spot-kick in Sweden in September 2015 to help qualify his country for UEFA EURO 2016 is probably not printable …