With almost 350 Bayern Munich appearances and eight Bundesliga titles to his name, David Alaba is surely up there with the best left-backs in the club’s illustrious history. - © DFL / Getty Images / Lukas Schulze
With almost 350 Bayern Munich appearances and eight Bundesliga titles to his name, David Alaba is surely up there with the best left-backs in the club’s illustrious history. - © DFL / Getty Images / Lukas Schulze

Is David Alaba Bayern Munich's all-time best left-back?


An eight-time Bundesliga winner at the age of 27 and poised to make his 350th competitive appearance for Bayern Munich, where does David Alaba sit in the club's pantheon of all-time great left-backs?

bundesliga.com weighs up the Austrian's credentials against the likes of Paul Breitner and Bixente Lizarazu…

1) David Alaba (2010 - present)

Bayern appearances: 349 (241 in the Bundesliga)
Goals: 30
Assists: 46
Honours: 8 x Bundesliga, 5 x DFB Cup, 4 x German Supercup, 1 x UEFA Champions League, 1 x FIFA Club World Cup, 1 x UEFA Super Cup

As well as racking up Bundesliga salad bowls by the bucket load, Alaba has also collected five DFB Cup winner's medals, four German Supercups and lifted the UEFA Champions League, as well as the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.

It's a quite remarkable haul for a player still to hit his peak years – even more so considering he spent his youth as a central midfielder.

"Even if he thinks differently, he is a left-back," former Bayern coach Louis van Gaal said after calling up the then 17-year-old from the reserves and playing him at left-back in a Bundesliga win over Freiburg in March 2010. "He's not good, he's very good."

Watch: Alaba's top 3 free-kicks 

So good that, over nine years on and via a loan stint at Hoffenheim, Alaba is widely considered not just Bayern's best ever, but world football's prototypical modern left-back.

The Austria international has averaged fewer than one foul per 90 minutes over his Bundesliga career for starters, while he has been involved in a Bayern goal every four Bundesliga games.

Throw in his set-piece prowess and versatility - ex-Bayern boss Pep Guardiola once remarked how "Alaba can play in virtually any outfield position" - and you begin to wonder if there will ever be a more complete top-level left-back.

2) Paul Breitner (1970-1974, 1978-1983)

Bayern appearances: 343 (255 in the Bundesliga)
Goals: 109
Assists: 37
Honours: 5 x Bundesliga, 2 x DFB Cup, 1 x European Cup, 1 x German Player of the Year

Similar questions were no doubt asked during the Breitner era.

Turbo-charged personified and one of the finest German footballers of all time, the Kolbmoor kid made a tremendous contribution to Bayern's fabled Golden Years in the 1970s, winning the DFB Cup, three successive Bundesliga titles, and the 1974 European Cup.

His imperious displays translated onto the Spanish stage, where he helped Real Madrid end Barcelona's reign of dominance in La Liga, before returning to Bayern - via Eintracht Braunschweig - in 1978.

Breitner (2nd l.) remained a fan favourite and title winner on his return to Bayern. - imago/Kicker/Liedel

Still the strategic visionary he was four years earlier, Breitner was appointed captain and went on to lift a further two Bundesliga titles with the record champions before a storied career was ended by injury.

If we're playing trump cards, Breitner scored more goals for Bayern than Alaba has managed to date, although he often operated out of midfield.

Breitner also got his hands on the 1974 FIFA World Cup, scoring the equaliser in Die Mannschaft's 2-1 win over the Netherlands in the final.

"I wasn't supposed to take the spot-kick but I was nearest to the ball," he recalled.

3) Bixente Lizarazu (1997-2004, 2005-2006)

Bayern appearances: 273 (183 in the Bundesliga)
Goals: 8
Assists: 20
Honours: 6 x Bundesliga, 5 x DFB Cup, 1 x UEFA Champions League, 1 x Intercontinental Cup

Lizarazu is another member of Bayern's alumni of decorated left-backs.

Joining Bayern from Athletic Bilbao in 1997, the Frenchman won six Bundesliga titles, five DFB Cups, the Champions League and Intercontinental Cup in his two stints in Munich between 1997 and 2006.

Lizarazu was also the first player ever to be world and European champion for club and country, having gone the distance at the 1998 World Cup and 2000 UEFA European Championship with France.

"I'd won everything, I'd reached all of my goals," he recalled in an interview with fourfourtwo. "In 2001, we were fighting with Schalke for the Bundesliga and won the title in the last minute, and I was named the best left-back in the world, so that year really was something special.

Like Alaba, Lizarazu also lifted the Champions League trophy just months after losing a heart-breaking final. - imago sportfotodienst

"It was like the Everest – the second Everest of my career, because 1998 was also Everest."

Needless to say Lizarazu had the necessary drive and fight to climb the real Everest. As a jiu-jitsu black belt, he was more uncompromising than free roaming, and was quite rightly spoken about in the same breath as lauded contemporaries Roberto Carlos and Paulo Maldini.

At 5'6", he laid waste to the big-is-best theory, while legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson's ultimately unsuccessful attempts to prize him from Bayern's grasp circa 2001/02 underlined his standing in the game - even if his direct influence wasn't quite as marked as Alaba or Breitner.

4) Christian Ziege (1990-1997)

Bayern appearances: 227 (183 in the Bundesliga)
Goals: 46
Assists: 40
Honours: 2 x Bundesliga, 1 x UEFA Cup

Ziege did make the switch to the English Premier League, but not before getting his hands on two Bundesliga titles and the now defunct UEFA Cup with Bayern prior to a spell in Italy with AC Milan.

There were shades of Breitner about his game, not least in the final third. Ziege would often play as a left wing-back or in midfield, a tactical tweak reflected in his 40 goals and 46 assists in 227 competitive outings as a Bayern player.

He even finished the 1994/95 Bundesliga campaign as the club's top scorer on 12 goals - only eight shy of leading marksman Mario Basler of Werder Bremen.

Despite being a left-back, it was a common sight to see Ziege wheeling away in celebration after scoring a goal for Bayern. - imago images / Kicker/Liedel

"In Germany, with the sweeper we had an additional insurance, so a back-three plus two wing-backs," Ziege said of the differences between playing in Germany with Bayern and Italy with Milan. "In Italy, meanwhile, it was a pure back-four. Correspondingly in Germany I had substantially more freedom in attack."

Ziege's mastery of free-kicks contributed to a strike rate that at one point equated to one goal every five games, but it wasn't all sunshine, rainbows and net-busters for the 1996 UEFA European Championship winner.

The 74-time Germany international - a beaten finalist at the 2002 FIFA World Cup - was also part of the Bayern side that suffered an ignominious second-round exit at the hands of Norwich City in the 1993/94 UEFA Cup - the club's first and only defeat to English opposition at their former Olympic Stadium stomping ground.

5) Michael Tarnat (1997-2003)

Bayern appearances: 199 (122 in the Bundesliga)
Goals: 17
Assists: 28
Honours: 4 x Bundesliga, 3 x DFB Cup, 1 x UEFA Champions League, 1 x Intercontinental Cup

When Ziege moved to Italy, Bayern sought reinforcements in the form of Lizarazu and Tarnat.

Lizarazu wasted little time in bolting down the left-back berth, meaning Tarnat spent the first few years of his Bayern career on the left-hand side of midfield.

The duo didn't produce the kind of magic associated with Alaba's partnership with former wing man Franck Ribery, but still formed an effective no-frills arm that was instrumental in Bayern's run of three straight Bundesliga titles between 1998 and 2000.

Domestic success bred continental gold in the 2000/01 Champions League, two years after Tarnat experienced the nadir of Bayern's stoppage-time final defeat to Man United.

Tarnat was the man on the post when Manchester United beat Bayern in injury time the 1999 Champions League final, often recalling the scenario even after winning the trophy two years later. - imago images / Sven Simon

Starting the game at left-back in place of the injured Lizarazu, the former Duisburg and Karlsruhe defender was the man on the far post when match-winner Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stuck out a boot to divert Teddy Sheringham's knock-on past goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, over Tarnat and into the net.

"When I see that picture, and I've seen it a lot, the first thing I think of is the incredible celebrations of the United fans," Tarnat said in The Telegraph. "But also I think, 'Why didn't I clear it? Why didn't I maybe head it out?' But really at the time the ball was too high for me and I had no chance."

Tarnat gained a measure of revenge by producing an assist in Bayern's 2001/02 quarter-final win over the Red Devils, with Germany's biggest club eventually claiming Ol' Big Ears courtesy of a penalty shoot-out victory over Valencia.

A 21-time Germany international, who played five times for his country at the 1998 World Cup in France, Tarnat was reduced to a bit-part role in his final season as a Bayern player, but still managed 14 appearances at left-back as Bayern claimed a 2002/03 Bundesliga and DFB Cup double.