Bayern Munich needs more David Alabas.
Alaba joined Bayern a decade ago as a 16-year-old and rose through the ranks. He played in the academy set-up, spent half a year with Bayern Munich II and made his professional debut with the club in 2010. Apart from a six-month loan to Hoffenheim in 2011, the do-it-all defender (and sometimes midfielder) has been a critical piece for the Bavarians ever since.
Now 26, Alaba should be moving into the old guard with Bayern, and in some respects he is. Yet he's the second-youngest player who started regularly for Bayern last year with RB Leipzig import Joshua Kimmich coming in under him at 23. Bayern can keep bringing in some of the Bundesliga's best talent and continue its impressive league winning streak but to win the Champions League, forming more players like Alaba may be necessary. The Austria international says the club is working to do just that.
"I think this is the goal of the club, FC Bayern Munich. They just built a big campus in Munich for young players," he told Goal. "I was the last young player, and it’s been a long time now, but I think we’re in a good way to try and put young players in this position where I am now. We have a lot of potential in the young players. You can see it on the pitch during training, also during games, that they’re doing very well.
"But, the step up to the first team is very high, so it’s not easy. I think they’re doing their best, and you can see the coach trying to talk to them a lot, trying to give them some tips to improve themselves. We’ll see, but I think we’re going in the right direction."
In the coach, Niko Kovac, players are getting a boss nearly 30 years younger than their last manager. Jupp Heynckes was coaxed out of retirement after the club parted ways with Carlo Ancelotti after a Champions League defeat in October 2017.
Heynckes helped the team to a sixth consecutive league championship but saw his squad fall short to Kovac's Frankfurt in the cup and ran into the buzzsaw that was Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid in the Champions League.
Kovac, a 46-year-old former Bayern midfielder, may be able to relate to his players better than Heynckes and, Alaba hopes, will get off to a strong start that will lead to him being able to carry out a long-term project.
"You can feel the experience he has as a player and also as a manager now. He tries to bring his philosophy to our team now," Alaba said. "Of course, it needs time, but he has a lot of experience especially as a player and also now as a manager. Our training is hard, but it’s very effective. We have a really good atmosphere in the team and on the pitch. He’s talking to the players a lot and giving us his trust and good feelings."
While the majority of Bayern's stars who took part in the World Cup haven't been training with the club in the United States, Alaba said those who were on the tour have been put through a number of demanding training sessions by Kovac.
"The first couple weeks were very positive," he said. "We worked very hard. We’re very concentrated. You can see that every single week we’re getting better, getting closer to where we want to go. Of course, we want to go this way so we can reach our goals."
Those goals will include another Bundesliga title as well as a first Champions League title since 2012-13. Bayern faces Frankfurt in the Supercup on August 12 before opening Bundesliga play against Hoffenheim on August 24.