Alaba: ‘25 to 30 metres out is ideal for my free-kicks’
Munich - After scoring a sensational 30-metre free-kick to help FC Bayern München beat VfB Stuttgart last weekend, utility man has revealed the secret behind his long-range shooting ability, though any would-be set-piece specialists of the lazier persuasion should look away now.
“I’ve been practicing free-kicks since I was 15,” the 22-year-old Austrian international said in an interview on his club’s official website. “Over the years I’ve tried to hone my technique by watching videos of Juninho, Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham, but above all through practice, a lot of practice.”
There appeared to be relatively little danger to Sven Ulreich’s goal when Alaba positioned himself 15 yards or so outside the Stuttgart penalty area, just to the right of centre. Yet his left-foot struck the ball so sweetly that the hosts’ custodian never stood a chance as it swerved straight into the top corner. “A lot of the time it doesn’t work out in a game, but when it does it’s all the nicer,” Alaba continued. “Around 25 to 30 metres out is the ideal distance for my free-kicks.” Bayern are blessed with several dead-ball specialists, including Bastian Schweinsteiger and Xabi Alonso, who have also scored from free-kicks this season, but Alaba insists there is no designated taker at the record Bundesliga champions. “Of course Arjen [Robben]’s got a great shot, as do Mario [Götze], Basti [Schweinsteiger] and Xabi. We take it in turns. The team trust me and when I’ve got a good feeling then I just grab the ball and hit it.”
Not that this season has all been quite so simple for the Bayern No27, who made his first-team debut for the club almost exactly five years ago. Alaba injured his knee at the beginning of November 2014 and was sidelined for two months after undergoing corrective surgery. “It was horrible, a really bad time,” he said. “I’m happy that it’s over. I tried to work hard and give my all during my recovery. I wanted to get back to my best as soon as possible. Luckily, it’s worked out quite well.” That is quite the understatement. Alaba has shown no rustiness since returning to the side and has played the full 90 minutes in each of Bayern’s Bundesliga games so far in 2015. Even head coach Pep Guardiola expressed his admiration, saying: “David is always fit […] he’s one of my most important players.”
‘We still have to find our rhythm’
Ever the optimist, Alaba was eager to draw on the positives gained from his two-month stint as a spectator: “Maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing, mentally speaking. It helped me realise that football is my absolute priority; it’s my life and I just love the game. I just want to be out on the pitch.” Nevertheless, he is in no hurry to repeat the experience, saying: “I hope I don’t get injured again too soon.” Bayern’s next assignment is at home to Hamburger SV on Saturday, and after collecting just four points from a possible nine in the Rückrunde to date, Alaba is keen for the team to “take the next step” against the northerners, aware that the league leaders “still have to find our rhythm”. Failing that, Bayern can always fall back on a highly effective Plan B - just as long as they can win a free-kick the appropriate distance from goal.