German Cup final: Bayern Munich′s quiet leader David Alaba never tires of trophies | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 03.07.2020
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German Cup final: Bayern Munich's quiet leader David Alaba never tires of trophies

He turned 28 last week, but David Alaba is already one of football's most decorated players. As he goes for a fifth Bundesliga and German Cup double, Bayern Munich's quiet leader appears more important than ever.

From the outside, Bayern Munich's relentless trophy hunting can sometimes look a little clinical, an exercise in meeting targets rather than finding joy.

But for David Alaba, winning a ninth Bundesliga title and thus equaling the record of former teammate Franck Ribery and current teammate Thomas Müller was significant. To him, records matter.

"It means a lot. The ninth championship is a special title for me. A milestone in my career that I’m proud of and thankful for," he told German magazine Kicker this week ahead of Saturday's German Cup final against Bayer Leverkusen.

Should Bayern beat Leverkusen, Alaba will claim his fifth domestic double, and a repeat of the 2013 treble is still possible, with the Champions League set to resume August. That he'll have achieved the double with four different coaches (Jupp Heynckes, Pep Guardiola, Niko Kovac and Hansi Flick) speaks to his longevity, ability, consistency and flexibility.

Central figure

The last of those qualities has had to come to the fore in the current campaign, after Bayern allowed Mats Hummels to go back to Borussia Dortmund before serious injuries to Lucas Hernandez and Niklas Süle left them short in central defense. With Jerome Boateng then not in Kovac's plans, the unassuming left back suddenly became the central defensive leader.

As with everything else in his career, the Austrian has taken it in his stride. While he played in the middle a few times under Guardiola, he's looked a natural there this term. Alaba reads the game exceptionally well in order to make up for his lack of height, starts attacks superbly from deep and is notably quick for a center back. Süle, arguably the Bundesliga's best center back at the start of the season, has barely been missed.

Flick has described Alaba as his "defensive leader" on a number of occasions. Though softly spoken off the pitch, games in empty stadiums have allowed viewers an insight in to the Austrian's vocal organizing. Those leadership qualities have also helped in the rapid development of teenager Alphonso Davies, who has been the breakout start of the Bundesliga season in Alaba's old position at left back.

"I have a guy like David Alaba beside me who is one of the best left backs in the world and he’s helping me out. I’m very grateful for that," said the Canadian earlier in the season.

Winning mentality

Since becoming Bayern's then-youngest ever debutant in 2008, Alaba has seen it all at Bayern. He has won a staggering 18 trophies, more than most clubs. But he told Kicker it's never enough.

"For me, it is not boring. We've worked hard, working all year to get over the line and get to the top," he said. "We don't get tired of winning titles. On the contrary it's a lot of fun."

If those words are reassuring to Bayern fans, Alaba's contract situation is not. While Bayern have announced new deals for veterans Müller and captain Manuel Neuer recently, as well as the signing of Leroy Sane, Alaba's deal expires in a year.

With Guardiola reportedly interested in joining up with his old charge at Manchester City and a number of other clubs sniffing around, there have been whispers that he could look to play elsewhere for the first time since a loan spell with Hoffenheim in 2010-11. 

Alaba said he's been too focused on the football to worry too much about a new deal. Given his professionalism throughout his career, that may well be true.

Should he stay in Bavaria in to his 30s, he seems on course to break all sorts of records. But that's for the future. On Saturday, he'll be just as desperate to secure his 19th title as he was his first.