Created on 09-03-2010 at 00:00 AM
For the tricky Champions League trip to Fiorentina, Louis van Gaal could have opted for experienced EURO 2008 campaigner Danijel Pranjic at left-back. He might have chosen to switch Philipp Lahm over from the right. Or he had the option of 17 year-old David Alaba to stand in for the injured Diego Contento, himself just two years older. “I don’t know what the coach will decide, but if he starts with David Alaba, I’ll fully support him. David’s only 17, but a lot older in terms of ability. I’d have no problem starting with him,” Director of Sport Christian Nerlinger declared beforehand.
Van Gaal, renowned for blooding the likes of Xavi and Andrés Iniesta (at Barcelona), Clarence Seedorf and Patrick Kluivert (at Ajax), and Thomas Müller and Holger Badstuber at FCB, stayed true to past form and selected Alaba, who made his Bundesliga debut just three days earlier. At 17 years and 258 days, Alaba was 15 days younger than Toni Kroos on his European debut (on 4 October 2007) and thus becomes the youngest player ever to represent Bayern in the Champions League.
“If I pick a player for the senior team, it means he’s good enough,” Van Gaal explained. “I do it, because I have huge faith in these players. If they didn’t have the quality, I wouldn’t do it,” the coach said. “We have complete faith in him. He shows his ability in training all the time. He’s a good lad with bags of quality,” confirmed club captain Mark van Bommel.