Bayern's Austrian all-rounder David Alaba: 'Winning titles drives us'
David Alaba has just picked up his fifth Bundesliga title, at the still tender age of 23. The FC Bayern München defender can add to an already copious collection of trophies this summer when he represents Austria at UEFA EURO 2016, but before the Vienna-born defender heads to France, bundesliga.com caught up with him to gather his thoughts about the European Championship and what comes after for Bayern.
bundesliga.com: David Alaba, the European Championship in France is just around the corner. If you look at Austria’s team, you see plenty of players who have really made a name for themselves in the Bundesliga…
David Alaba: That just goes to show what quality players we’ve got in our team, when they are able to make a name for themselves in such a strong league. Every single one of us has improved as a result of playing at such a high level in the Bundesliga and in other European leagues.
I came to Munich in 2008 when I was 16 and the city has become my second home
bundesliga.com: So where would you put Austria on a global level today?
Alaba: We did very well in qualifying [for EURO 2016] and we’ve been enjoying more and more success in recent years and have constantly improved. Our biggest strength, though, is the collective and it’s this which sets us apart. We want to get even better and we certainly are no longer a team who need to have any fear.
bundesliga.com: What do you make of Austria’s chances at EURO 2016, then?
Alaba: I’m not one to give such things much thought. Our first game’s definitely going to be very important, but we’ve done well in the past taking things from game to game and that’s the way we want to approach France.
bundesliga.com: You’ve become an extremely important player for Bayern, with many seeing you as a symbol of the club. You’re a superstar back in Austria too – what does all that mean to you?
Alaba: I came to Munich in 2008 when I was 16 and the city has become my second home. I’m very happy in Munich and with Bayern and I think you can see that. Of course the euphoria around me is huge in Austria and you can feel that everywhere. I just try to be myself first and foremost. I know that I am in the public eye and for many I am even a role model, so I just try to do this justice.
bundesliga.com: You are also regarded as one of the entertainers at Bayern…
Alaba: (smiles) That’s for others to judge. If people like the way I am, then that makes me happy.
bundesliga.com: You are regarded by many as the best left full-back in the world. You’ve also played in midfield – where do you prefer to play?
Alaba: In the end, it’s not so much about the position but more importantly about where I can make the best contribution for the team. Being very versatile is definitely part of my game. I’ve already proven that both in midfield and at left-back.
bundesliga.com: You have just won a fourth Bundesliga title in a row with Bayern, and rounded it off with the DFB Cup. Is that just the bare minimum for Bayern, or an achievement?
Alaba: Winning the league is always special. It gets harder each year and you’ve always got to be at your very best in the Bundesliga. Winning four titles in a row is fantastic. No other club has done that in over 50 years of the Bundesliga so it’s historic.
We want to win titles – as many as possible – and that is what drives us
bundesliga.com: Does winning the double make up for not reaching the Champions League final?
Alaba: They are unrelated – they are different competitions. Of course we were disappointed, but now we’ve got to look forward. We’ve reached the semi-finals three years in a row and the Champions League is not something you can just win like that. It’s always very tight, but we’ll take another crack at it because we’re hungry.
bundesliga.com: But when Pep Guardiola arrived, it was easy to say: best team plus best coach equals Champions League victory.
Alaba: The expectations at Bayern are always high, which is why we want to play for such a special club. We want to win titles – as many as possible – and that is what drives us. But we know how to deal with the expectations. We’ve had a very successful time [under Guardiola] and improved year on year. We played extremely successful football and I think that speaks for itself.
bundesliga.com: After the European Championships, you go on a tour of the USA with Bayern. What do you make of such big trips?
Alaba: It’s always something special. Bayern have plenty of fans abroad – we are one of the best clubs in the world and the interest shows how Bayern are such a special club in many ways. I personally always love to go to the USA. I think it’s cool to spend some of pre-season abroad.
bundesliga.com: Carlo Ancelotti will be your coach in the USA. What do you expect from him?
Alaba: I know he’s been successful as a coach everywhere and you hear about how good a coach he is, but I don’t know what will change. What is for certain is that we want to get even better and we’re hungry for more titles.
Interview by Oliver Trust