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Exclusive interview

Alaba: I’m living my personal dream

David Alaba is living the dream of playing professional football at the highest level. At just 21, the Austrian is a mainstay of the team, both at Bayern and for his country. “David isn’t just incredibly strong physically and as a player, he has something very special in terms of character. He’s extremely polite and pleasant,” commented Arjen Robben, “he’s still very young, but he’s already an important player for Bayern.”

“I know I’m living a dream held by lots of young people, and I’m living my personal dream,” Alaba told In our exclusive interview, the two-time Austrian Player of the Year discussed his dynamism, Saturday’s Bundesliga trip to Hoffenheim and his popularity. “A lot of fun things happen around me, some of them quite moving,” he revealed.

Interview: David Alaba David, it’s been a ‘normal’ week with no game for the first time since late August, and you even had Sunday and Tuesday off. Has it been good?
David Alaba: We’ve had a huge number of games and lots of overnight stays in hotels. A week at home does you the world of good - especially when you know it starts all over again next week. It’s been a chance to draw breath, and it’s been an important week for us mentally too.

What will the break mean for the Hoffenheim clash?
Our target and ambition is to take all three points in Hoffenheim. We’ll do everything we can. But obviously, we know Hoffenheim will make it as hard as they can for us in front of their home crowd. Hoffenheim are much stronger compared to last season and they’re playing well as a team.

It’s more than two years since your spell in Hoffenheim. Are you still in touch with anyone at the club?
I have a couple of contacts, but it’s been quiet on that front recently. A number of players from my time there have left Hoffenheim since then.

In the meeting with Hertha BSC, you wore exclusive adidas boots, created by a Japanese designer. Will you wear them again in Hoffenheim?
No, the boots were only for that one match. adidas approached me to do the promotion. It was a big honour, because I think only six players around the world were selected to wear these boots.

Pep Guardiola talks a lot about your dynamism and power. Were you born with these attributes?
I’m certainly the kind of player who lives from a dynamic style of play. It’s one of my attributes, and our fitness coaches are helping me develop it as a strength. I feel physically great at the moment.

What’s changed about you and your position since Pep Guardiola took over at Bayern?
My game has changed a bit compared to last season. For example, I’m a lot more involved in our attacking play. They’re only small changes, but they’ve had a big impact. I just try and do what the coach asks of me.

Austria came up just short in World Cup qualifying. Are you still lamenting your failure to qualify for the tournament in Brazil?
I’ve put it behind me now, although the first few days after the game in Sweden were obviously not nice. But you have to go through these things as a player. I’m making the best of the situation. Overall, I think it was a good qualifying campaign. We’ve come a long way in the past two years, and our coach Marcel Koller has just extended his contract, which is very positive. He tries to help every individual player get better, and it’s brought us together as a team. We’re determined to carry on where we’ve left off.

You were already incredibly popular in Austria, and that’s grown again since you became a treble winner. Can you still get out and about in your home country?
Just taking a stroll isn’t as easy as it was. A lot of fun things happen around me, some of them quite moving. Last summer I was invited by Federal President Dr. Fischer to the presidential residence. There was a school class in front of me. The lads and girls were standing in line and I said hello to all of them - and one of them started crying for joy. You don’t forget something like that. I’m grateful the Austrian nation is so united behind me, and I’m always trying to give something back.

A reception from the president, two-time Austrian Player of the Year, Paralympics torch-bearer, Champions League winner, German champion and cup winner and so on - and you’re only 21! Do you have to pinch yourself sometimes?
It’s certainly all happened very quickly. I know I’m living a dream held by lots of young people, and I’m living my personal dream. I’m very thankful and obviously I do have to pinch myself every now and then, because I can hardly believe it’s all true. I have good people around me who do the pinching for me from time to time. It helps me keep my feet on the ground.

There’s an Alaba rap doing the online rounds. How did that come about?
Yes, I’ve heard about this. A friend showed it to me and we watched it once. It did make me laugh.

You’re up for another award tonight in Austrian Sports Personality of the Year. Do you have a chance?
It’s not an easy award to win as a footballer. The last footballing winner was Toni Polster in 1997. The competition (downhill skier Marcel Hirscher, ski jumper Gregor Schlierenzauer, golfer Bernd Wiesberger, and race cyclist Riccardo Zoidl) are all big names. It’s a huge honour just to be mentioned in such elite company. Let’s see what happens.