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Alaba: The hunger is still there

David Alaba is only 21 but has become an almost indispensable figure at FC Bayern at a remarkably young age. He has not missed a single game in the Champions League or the DFB Cup this season and has played in 21 out of 24 Bundesliga games. “I’m living a dream. I wake up every morning and think to myself: 'Wicked, it doesn’t get any better’,” explained Alaba in an exclusive interview with recorded between the Champions League Round of 16 second leg game against Arsenal and the top-of-the-table clash with Leverkusen.

The left back does not miss a thing in defence - and he also proves a constant threat to opposing defences when gets forward in tandem with Franck Ribéry. Alaba has provided more assists this season than in all the previous four campaigns put together (5). That is also down to Pep Guardiola, as Alaba revealed: “I’ve learned an incredible amount under him over the past few months.”

Interview: David Alaba David, you’re only 21 - and already a first choice in the starting line-up. Can you really believe it at times?
David Alaba: It’s all gone very quickly over the past few years. Sometimes I can’t believe it but it feels brilliant. I’m living a dream. I wake up every morning and think to myself: 'Wicked, it doesn’t get any better!' I’ll always be grateful to all the people who have supported me.

Pep Guardiola recently sang your praises at a press conference…
( reads out the exact words to Alaba: “David is always there. Always! He’s an incredible player. He’s not afraid of playing football. He’s disciplined and always thinks about the team and not just about himself. In David Alaba, FC Bayern have a star for years ahead, an outstanding player. An outstanding human being.”)
Wow! Incredible. I’m really happy about that. I’ve learned a huge amount from him over the past few months and I’m taking in everything he tells me. And I think I can speak on behalf of all the players.

Your athleticism and sprinting ability stand out. Have you ever lost a race for the ball?
David Alaba: Oh yes, there are one or two who’ve beaten me. But you’re right. My game’s based on dynamism. Being fit is crucial. I’ve worked on it a lot with our fitness coaches.

You’re often seen taking free kicks at the end of training sessions. You’ve found the back of the net in a number of games. Do you have a role model?
There are lots of brilliant free kick specialists in the world. But the technique of Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham fascinates me most of all. It’s not that long ago that I lived over there (Alaba points to the Academy). I used to spend hours on the laptop watching free kicks on YouTube - again and again. You obviously learn a thing or two.

You overcame Arsenal on Tuesday night to go through to the Champions League quarter-finals. Did you think you might get knocked out at any point?
No. We were in control and we deserved to go through. The first half was very good. We dropped off a bit in the second half. We gave the ball away too much and we didn’t play to our ability. We’re well aware of that.

How do you spend your time in the minutes and hours after a Champions League game? Does it take long to chill out?
First, I rest in the dressing room. Then it’s off to the players’ lounge where I usually meet up with my parents. They watch all of our home games. I have something to eat, watch a couple of moves from the game again - and then I look forward to my bed.

Is there anyone you fancy playing in the quarter-finals?
No, it doesn’t really matter to me. We focus on our game and build on our strengths. So it’s not such a big issue whether we play Barcelona, Real or slightly less well-known opponents.

You’re unbeaten in 49 games in the league. Do you talk about this great run in the team?
It’s an incredible number but, to be honest, I wasn’t really aware of it. And it’s not an issue in the team. We try to focus on the important thing. Runs like that aren’t a priority.

Did you think you could maintain the high standards you set in the treble-winning campaign?
You could see in pre-season that the hunger is still there. The change of coaches also made it more interesting. Jupp Heynckes did a great job - and Pep Guardiola has carried on where he left off. He sets us up perfectly for every game.

You hold a 20-point lead over Dortmund. There’s no sign of any slip ups to date…
It’s fantastic fun playing in this team. That includes the training sessions. We want to give something back to the fans, make them happy and we’re never satisfied even if we’re winning 4-0 after 80 minutes. This enthusiasm for the game is our strongest card.

What can you achieve this season?
Of course, we want to win everything again. Anybody who played in London or in Berlin can hardly wait to do it all again.

We’re playing Bayer Leverkusen in the league on Saturday. They’re not in the best of form at the moment. How do you think it will turn out?
They’ve often shown they’re a good side. We can’t afford to think it will be a walk in the park. We need to play to our strengths to win this game.

Emre Can joined Leverkusen in the summer. Are you still in contact with him?
Now and then. I’m happy for him that he’s playing regularly and producing good performances. It was exactly the right move for him. Emre always worked very hard when he was here. Now he’s reaping the benefits.

The last Bundesliga defeat was back in October 2012 - at home against Leverkusen. Hopefully it’s not a bad omen…
Well, I can’t really remember it anymore (laughs).