David Alaba’s suspension for the Champions League final is the most regrettable of all
The focus was on the likes of Arjen Robben, Cristiano Ronaldo, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mesut Özil. How would the Dutchman fare against his old club? Would Bayern be able to deal with one of the most prolific goalscorers in recent football history? Would “Basti” stifle Real Madrid in midfield, or would Özil break his compatriots’ hearts and destroy their dreams of a home Final in Munich?
In the end, of course, Bayern progressed. The old clichés involving Germans and penalties were thrown merrily about, and there serious discussions over the consequences of a missed opportunity for José Mourinho and his band of superstars.
One player, though, truly stood out. He was widely voted as Man of the Match, and despite knowing that he would miss out on the Final, did not let his emotions overcome him when drilling a penalty past one of the world’s best goalkeepers.
This was not Schweinsteiger, Özil, Khedira or Gómez. Despite his excellent penalty taking abilities, this player was not even German. He was a 19 year old Austrian playing out of position in the biggest game of his life. This was David Alaba.
If Bayern’s absences for this month’s Champions League Final appear arguably less crippling than Chelsea’s, Alaba is certainly one of the more regrettable ones. A player who, barely a year ago, was only just a fringe member of a Bayern side in complete disarray, has emerged as one of the key figures in their journey to a European Cup Final in their own stadium.
A talented and versatile midfielder by trade, Alaba has been in the Bayern system since 2008. A well loved figure around the club, the Austrian’s claim to a place in the first team has until now been perpetually blocked by the likes of Ribéry, Robben and Kroos. A loan spell at Hoffenheim last season granted him first team football for a while, but it is the second half of the current season in which Alaba has truly flourished.
It took a bout of flu from Rafinha for Alaba to assert himself as a regular starter in Jupp Heynckes’ side. The Brazilian right back had been drafted in the summer to solve the left back issue at Bayern, with Phillipp Lahm switching flanks. If only someone had thought of sticking David Alaba in the position a few months beforehand, they could have saved a significant sum of money.
Only scarcely employed in the position before this season, Alaba has made the left back role his own. And it is not just against the weaker sides which he excels. In the title decider against Dortmund, it was Alaba who stood out among a Bayern squad repeatedly frustrated by BVB’s tactical superiority. In both legs against Real Madrid, moreover, he dealt with the likes of Angel Dí María and Mesut Özil with remarkable calm.
Indeed, for the son of a Nigerian DJ and a Philippino beauty queen, Alaba’s calm exterior is one of his most notable aspects. Reserved and collected behind a microphone, and with none of the on field dramatics of the Robbens and Muellers of this world, Alaba’s maturity is ostensible.
According to his father, the Vienna born Alaba has “the best of three continents. His ambition and will to succeed are very African, while his work rate is Austrian. From his mother he gets respect. You have to have respect in life.”
There is no better testament to his mentality than the penalty against Real Madrid. Only four minutes into the game, Alaba had been unjustly punished for handball with a yellow card and a ban for the final. It did not stop him calmly converting the first penalty of the shootout against Iker Casillas.
With the likes of Ramires, Terry and Meireles out for Chelsea, Bayern will feel that they have got the rub of the green where suspensions are concerned, but if there is one player who they will truly miss come the 19th May, it will be David Alaba.Tagged in: bayern munich, Champions League, chelsea, David Alaba, football
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