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David Alaba interview

'I’ve practised free kicks since I was 15'

Just 22-years-old - and David Alaba is already a first choice for FC Bayern. When Austria’s Sports Personality of the Year injured his knee in November he was sorely missed for two months. With good reason as Alaba is one of Pep Guardiola’s most versatile players. Alaba returned to full training in the winter break and was back in the starting eleven for the first three games in 2015.

Rusty? Not Alaba! “David is always fit,” said Guardiola a few days ago, “he is one of my most important players. The left-footer scored with a wonderful strike from a free kick in last Saturday’s 2-0 win at VfB Stuttgart. In his interview with Alaba talks about his free kick technique, his professional debut five years ago, the difficult period during his knee injury and the forthcoming Bundesliga match against Hamburg SV.

Interview with David Alaba David, do you know what happened exactly five years ago?
Alaba: (thinks for a moment) “That’s a tricky one - no.” You made your debut as a pro for FC Bayern. At the age of 17 years, seven months and six days...
Alaba: “Really? I knew it was against Greuther Fürth in the DFB Cup but the fact it was five years ago. Madness!” Do you have to pinch yourself sometimes?
Alaba: “It’s incredible what’s happened between then and now. I’ve celebrated some great successes and enjoyed some unforgettable moments at a very young age. Yes, I sometimes ask myself if it’s all really true?“ It all started for you with Louis van Gaal. Then you worked under Jupp Heynckes and Pep Guardiola.
Alaba: “They are three of the top coaches in the world and all of them really helped me to develop as a player. Louis van Gaal was very strict but always there for you when you needed him. Jupp Heynckes was a father figure. He was very close to us younger players in particular. Pep Guardiola knows football inside out and I’ve never experienced anything like that before. But the six months I spent under Marco Pezzaiuoli at Hoffenheim also helped me develop. You can’t ignore that.” Free kicks are becoming more and more of a trademark for you. You stuck another one in the net at Stuttgart. How often do you practise?
Alaba: “I’ve practised that since I was 15. I was still at Austria Vienna back then. I’ve tried to fine tune my technique over the years. Watching videos of Juninho, Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham. But, above all, with lots and lots of practice. It often doesn’t quite work out in games but it’s even better when it does.” Is it right you prefer the ball to be further away from goal?
Alaba: “25 to 30 metres from goal is ideal for the flight of my shots.” Have you ever tried to take free kicks with your weaker, right foot?
Alaba: “No, never. They wouldn’t let me anywhere near the ball.” (he grins) You are an established goalscorer these days. Your team-mates seem to know all about your quality at free kicks.
Alaba: “Of course, Arjen also has a great shot. As have Mario, Basti and Xabi. We just take it in turns. But the team trusts me. If I feel good, I just pick it up and smack it as hard as I can.” You’ve been through a tough time recently. You were sidelined for two months at the end of the first half of the season with a knee injury. How have you managed to get stuck in straight after your comeback?
Alaba: “It was a terrible period and not pleasant at all. I’m glad it’s all over. I tried to work hard and I put everything into my rehab. I wanted to get back to the top of my game as soon as possible. Luckily, that’s worked out really well.” Sometimes it’s makes you stronger if suffer the odd setback. Was that the case for you?
Alaba: I hope I don’t get injured again any time soon. I suppose that difficult time wasn’t that bad from a mental point of view. Obviously money and glory are one thing in this business but I’ve realised football comes first. It’s my life and I just love the game. I want to be on the pitch and that’s the key factor.” Under Guardiola you sometimes play in midfield and sometimes at left back...
Alaba: “...and sometimes even in central defence. If anybody had said that to me one or two years ago I would have said they were mad. (he laughs) No, it’s definitely not a disadvantage to be able to play in several different positions. It doesn’t really matter where.” The second half of the season has been a mixed bag: Four points from three games. What do you think that’s down to?
Alaba: “We don’t need to say anything more about the Wolfsburg match as we were just poor. We were down to ten men for much of the game against Schalke and I thought we made up for that really well. And we won at Stuttgart. I know we still need to find our rhythm but it’s not easy when you’re up against a team sat back defending their goal with ten men in their own box.” It’s Hamburg SV on Saturday and they’ve won two on the bounce in the league.
Alaba: “We want to move on up. We’ll prepare well this week and then hopefully give our fans at the Allianz Arena something to shout about. It’s good to have Franck and Rafa back. We need them as they’re both very important players.”

Interviewed by: Nikolai Kube.