Lucas Hernandez and Alphonso Davies: why Bayern Munich need not worry about David Alaba leaving
If you're wondering why Bayern Munich have allowed a David Alaba in his prime to leave the club, look no further than world-beating teammates Alphonso Davies and Lucas Hernandez for answers.
There's no question Alaba will leave a sizeable legacy when he officially flies the nest at the end of the 2020/21 campaign.
With more layers than a Schichttorte, the 28-year-old has mastered every position asked of him in his 13 years at Bayern, transitioning from precocious midfielder to one of the world's leading left-backs, before fulfilling an earlier prophecy from Pep Guardiola by becoming one of the most accomplished central defenders in the modern game.
Watch: The best of David Alaba
He has won upwards of 20 titles - including continental trebles in 2012/13 and 2019/20 - and ranks among the most decorated players in the record champions' history.
Any other club would be quaking in their boots at the prospect of filling the elite-level void, but foresight has long been a Bayern strong suit.
Take Davies. Despite switching to Bayern from Vancouver Whitecaps in January 2019 as an attacking wide player, he has thrived in the left-back position Alaba once held under lock and key.
Watch: Alphonso Davies under the tactical microscope
The 20-year-old is the fastest man at Bayern, the quickest in Bundesliga history and would conceivably give Usain Bolt a run for his money in a footrace. In terms of raw defensive terms, he's no slouch either, with superior numbers in the tackle to Alaba. Only one percent down on his mentor in the pass completion department, the incendiary Canadian is up for one-on-one challenges won and crosses resulting in a shot.
For perspective, Davies is midway through his second full season at Bayern. Although Alaba made his senior debut for the record champions in March 2010 at the age of 17, it wasn't until the start of 2011/12 - via a six-month loan to Hoffenheim - that he became a regular member of the first-team squad.
Davies credits Alaba for aiding his transition, but student has advanced mentor in his own way.
Thanks to Davies' blistering pace and powers of recovery, Alaba is able to step forward and squeeze the midfield, strengthening Bayern's collective grip on games. Even then, he still averages fewer touches per game than his young disciple.
Notwithstanding the career shades of Alaba's realignment under Louis van Gaal all those years ago, the Davies retread is going to take some beating.
If Davies has earned an uninterrupted stint at left-back, Hernandez makes an equally convincing case to take on the baton as Bayern's long-term left-sided central defender.
For starters, the Bavarians are unbeaten in 32 Bundesliga matches with the Frenchman in the team - winning 27 and drawing five - but have lost six without him since his summer 2019 transfer from Atletico Madrid. They have also conceded just 13 times across the 11 league outings Hernandez has started in 2020/21, compared to 19 in the eight he has sat out. That he wins the highest proportion of challenges of any Bayern centre-back (67 percent) underlines his defensive prowess.
And while the 2018 FIFA World Cup winner isn't part of Bayern's stable of set-piece takers like Alaba, he is creeping towards the Austrian in the passing stakes. Eighty per cent of his attempts from open play have found a man - two percent less than Alaba.
What's more, Hernandez's peak years - he turned 25 in February - are still to come. Alaba will be 29 in the summer.
It's testament to Alaba's all-round qualities that not one but two top-level players form the crux of the conversation in the wake of his decision to leave Bayern. It's an even greater endorsement of Davies and Hernandez that the Reds are not worried about letting the nine-time Bundesliga winner go.
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