(Reuters) – Austria will hope talisman David Alaba settles his club future before the European Championship kicks off to avoid speculation about his next move overshadowing their Group C campaign.
The 28-year-old, who is leaving Bayern Munich after winning 10 Bundesliga titles, is said to be on the shopping list of several of Europe’s top clubs, with media speculation putting Real Madrid first in the queue.
Alaba’s departure from the Bundesliga champions has been known about for months, after contract extension talks earlier in the season turned sour, but the identity of his new employer is yet to be revealed just weeks from Austria’s opening match against North Macedonia in Bucharest on June 13.
“In order to grow, you have to leave your comfort zone,” said Alaba after 12 seasons with an average of 35 games each in a remarkable show of consistency at the top level and in a myriad of different positions.
Louis van Gaal made him the youngest Bayern player in Bundesliga history in February 2010 and he was later rated the best left-sided defender in world football.
When Pep Guardiola was Bayern coach, he put Alaba at centre back and said: “He can undoubtedly become one of the best central defenders in the world.”
But for Austria he prefers to feature in the centre of the midfield. “I still have an offensive urge in me,” Alaba says.
Born in Vienna to a Nigerian father and mother from the Philippines, Alaba has played in a variety of roles, sometimes as a left winger and other times as a defensive midfielder. It is where he can help his country best that he is deployed.
Alaba has already played 79 times for Austria and was the country’s youngest international at 17 years and 112 days.
He had hoped to make more of an impact at the last European Championship in France five years ago but Austria managed just one point as they suffered a first-round elimination after defeats by Hungary and Iceland and a 0-0 draw with Portugal.
“I tried to give my best,” he said at the time. “Our book is not yet finished. It’s only a chapter, certainly not a nice chapter, but I think that a part of moving ahead is a chapter looking just like that.”
He will be hoping to help write a much brighter part of their story this time round.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ken Ferris)