USA U20 defender Chris Richards says David Alaba has been his biggest influence since he joined Bayern Munich on a six-month loan deal from FC Dallas in July 2018.
Richards, 18, is currently on the books of Bayern's U19s, but made his senior debut in the International Champions Cup against Manchester City during preseason, partnering first-team staple Alaba in the centre of defence.
"Alaba has been really good for me," Richards told SportsIllustrated. "He kind of took me under his wing, whether it was during training or after training or before training. He showed me around the first-team campus, and he speaks really good English, so he was helping me out. On the preseason tour, he was giving me pointers on what I should do in certain aspects of the game at different points. He has been amazing for me."
With Alaba's words of wisdom fuelling his ambition, Richards has turned out 16 times in all competitions so far this season for Bayern's U19s. Scoring twice from defence, his performances have earned him a maiden call-up to the USA U20s squad for upcoming CONCACAF championship games against Costa Rica and Honduras - not that he wants to stop there.
"I'm not knocking MLS at all, but everyone's dream is to play on the biggest stage possible," Richards said, with an eye on extending his deal with Bayern into the new year. "Hopefully I can stay here, and Bayern can give me a professional contract. And if not, I'll go back to Dallas and keep working through the ranks."
"It's a crazy feeling," he admitted. "You grow up watching these players in Champions League, and now I'm training with them. It’s something that's even hard to put it into words. You just want to stargaze when you’re out there on the field, but you actually have to play with them and hold your own. It was a weird transition at first, but it's something I could only dream about."