Such roles are generally reserved for players who are first-team regulars, full internationals to boot, with a clean-cut image and a trustworthy face.
Reserved role model
At just 21-years of age, FC Bayern München and Austria full-back David Alaba already ticks all of the boxes. “When you see him, you just want to take him into your arms,” said team-mate Franck Ribery. Alaba may not thank him for saying so, but the UEFA Best Player in Europe meant it as a compliment.
“I think he has something endearing about him,” continued Ribery in Kicker magazine. “The first time he stood there in the dressing room, he was very discreet and reserved, with huge respect for all of us.” That first meeting took place back in February 2010, when at the age of 17 years and 232 days, Alaba became Bayern’s youngest debutant in the DFB Cup.
His Bundesliga bow followed soon after, and he has since become “one of the best in the world” in his position, according to Bayern’s sporting director Matthias Sammer. Such a bold claim is backed up by Philipp Lahm’s shift from the left to the right of the defence. While it was a move the player, Germany coach Joachim Löw and Jupp Heynckes all craved, he would likely not have done so had a high-class replacement not been available.
Club president Uli Hoeneß also gave an indication of the esteem in which Alaba has long been held in the Bavarian capital: “We served [Sami] Khedira up on a silver platter [to then coach Louis van Gaal], but he didn’t want him. He said 'Alaba is better'.” Praise indeed considering the former VfB Stuttgart midfielder is now a mainstay at Real Madrid CF.
Following in the footsteps of greatness
Though a left-back at Bayern, the youngster plays in midfield with the Austrian national team, a position he admits to being more comfortable in. “He’s a fantastic player, a so-called playmaker down the left-hand side,” enthused former Bayern coach and current Switzerland supremo Ottmar Hitzfeld. “He’s following in the same footsteps as Lahm and [Paolo] Maldini.”
With yet another of the game's heavyweights naming Alaba in the same breath as two of the world’s all-time greatest full-backs, there can be no doubt that the Bayern No27 is the real deal. Alaba's club, his country and one international financial instituttion, are already banking on him.