Bayern Munich left-back David Alaba has hailed club legend and recently departed teammate Franck Ribery for the impact he had on his career.
Ribery, 36, left the record Bundesliga champions over the summer following 12 years in Munich, helping the team win nine league titles, among others, in the process.
The Frenchman befriended Alaba when the Austria international — nine years his junior — was just 16 at Bayern's youth academy, and the pair's off-the-pitch rapport soon translated into one of the Bundesliga's most potent partnerships on it, with the duo enjoying an innate understanding of the other's moves and intentions on the left wing.
Asked if he missed the wing wizard this week as Bayern's US tour drew to a close, Alaba replied: "Yes, we played together for 10 years. I owe him a lot. We've got a close relationship and we're still in contact."
It's not the first time Alaba has lauded Ribery's influence on him. "I was really lucky to come into an established team in 2010, where everyone paid attention to developing young players," he said last year.
"Basti Schweinsteiger, Mario Gomez, Philipp Lahm and also Franck, who's one of the most important people in my career. He tried to help me progress from day one. Franck's not just a role model; we're also very close friends now."
The warmth and respect was most certainly mutual after the duo featured in well over 100 Bundesliga games together. "I prefer playing with him, and he is glad when I'm on the pitch as well," said Ribery. "There is an understanding between us."
Watch: Alaba: Bayern's free-kick wizard
Ever the professional, however, Alaba is aware that he cannot dwell on the past and is looking forward to the new campaign, which will likely see him link up with Kingsley Coman on the left. "It's no secret that I also get on will [with him] and we showed that last season," Alaba told Sport1.
The 27-year-old also welcomed the arrival of fellow defender Lucas Hernandez this summer. Although head coach Niko Kovac has said that he sees the Frenchman as a centre-back, he helped Les Bleus lift the 2018 World Cup last year from left-back.
"Competition for places is good for everyone, myself included," said the Austrian, who nevertheless will not give up his spot without a fight. "I've been around for a while now and have had competitors in the past too."