Hot on the heels of his first call-up to the USMNT roster, Bayern Munich’s young American defender Chris Richards has revealed the influence of David Alaba on his time so far with the reigning Bundesliga champions.
Watch: Gregg Berhalter on Gio Reyna and Chris Richards
When asked in an interview on the club’s website - alongside fellow breakout youngster Jamal Musiala - who his mentor is in the squad, the Texan-native’s answer was adamant.
“I think Alaba, for sure,” said Richards. “When I first came here, he was the one who gave me the nickname ‘Texas’ and when I first met him he was really understanding and he realised I came from a whole different place.
“Even off the field stuff, if I ever needed help with anything, he gave me his number so I could contact him. He’s a really nice person and he’s really good with the younger players because he knows what it takes to go from the academy to the first team.”
Richards’ rise through the Bayern ranks has switched gears in recent months, since he made his senior debut against Freiburg on the penultimate day of the 2019/20 campaign.
At the start of this term he established himself as a regular in Bayern's matchday squads until a calf injury sustained on the defender's first start against Hertha Berlin put him back a couple of weeks, but Richards was back on Hansi Flick’s bench for the win over Cologne on Matchday 6.
“It was crazy because kids I grew up playing with were texting me - kids I haven’t maybe heard from in five years,” explained Richards. “It was like: ‘Yo, it’s so crazy seeing that you actually chased your dreams and now you gave an assist to the best striker in the world. How does that feel?’
“It’s an amazing feeling. I don’t know how to compare it to anything else, but it’s really amazing seeing all the love from back home, whether it’s family or friends or even old teachers or classmates.”
Watch: Richards' first assist in Bayern's 4-3 win over Hertha
Those “amazing” moments have been coming thick and fast for Richards recently, topped by his maiden call-up to Gregg Berhalter's USA squad for November’s friendlies against Wales and Panama.
But, for now, Richards is keeping his feet firmly on the ground and just hoping to keep impressing at Bayern.
“I just want to be a main part of this team,” he said of his aspirations for the future. “It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s starting off the bench and making my way into the starting XI, but I just want to be a part of this team and be able to hold my own every day.”