Real Madrid: A reason to be optimistic about David Alaba’s future fit

Real Madrid have been closely linked with David Alaba for months, as Fabrizio Romano reported in the Guardian this January that he signed a pre-agreed four-year deal with Los Blancos, Now, Sky Sport Germany’s Max Bielefeld states that Alaba has agreed to terms on a five-year deal with Real, and the deal will be made official within “weeks”.

Alaba had been receiving interest from the likes of PSG, Chelsea, and Barcelona, but the Bayern Munich defender and midfielder has seemingly said “no” to everyone in order to choose Real Madrid. The fallout of the European Super League creates some uncertainty, but barring an unforeseen calamity, Los Blancos should count Alaba in their ranks for 2021-2022 and beyond.

Of course, some Madridistas are not happy about the move. They do not see Alaba as an apt replacement for Sergio Ramos, noting how poorly he has played at center back this season, inexplicably regressing from his excellent 2019-2020 in the position. It is not his primary position, of course, but Bayern prefer Alphonso Davies and Lucas Hernandez at left back. Alaba is also more needed in central defense or central midfield.

And it is the latter position that should be a real talking point now. It is no secret that Alaba prefers playing in midfield. He first played at that position and has appeared there for the Austrian national team.

David Alaba excelled for Bayern against Bayer this week

Most importantly, we have seen Alaba playing in midfield for Bayern in 2020-2021. He’s made seven starts in this position this season, per, and he’s posting higher WhoScored ratings in midfield than in defense.

This week, Bayern Munich started Alaba in a double-pivot with Joshua Kimmich against Champions League contenders Bayer Leverkusen, and it went very well for Die Roten. Bayern dominated the match with a 2-0 win, and Alaba was a standout.

Alaba frequently got into good shooting positions, and it was his pinpoint cross that created the opening goal for Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. His cross initially went to Thomas Muller, who was stopped by an incredible Lukas Hradecky save. And Choupo-Moting cleaned up nicely. Alaba didn’t get credit for the assist, but his cross did create the goal.

In total, Alaba finished the match with four key passes. He was a constant danger to Bayer around the penalty area, and he did a great job of controlling the game. Alaba, whose build-up play at center back or as an inverted left back has always been held in high regard, completed 93.1 percent of his 58 pass attempts.

He was fantastic, and he has been good in midfield throughout the season. Even against Wolfsburg when his pass completion percentage was below 60, he still managed to generate two key passes and make four tackles and four interceptions.

To have a player with Alaba’s technical quality, experience, intelligence, calm demeanor, and defensive work is a real asset in midfield. He would not displace Casemiro in the defensive midfield, nor would he take the place of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos. But you cannot think of a better rotational piece who can also start at left back or even at center back.

Alaba is a better midfielder now than he was when he began his career at the position. He is a mature, confident player who reads the game well and can create chances in a variety of ways. Alaba is a risky contract in this economy on a five-year deal at the age of 28, but if he continues to play this well in midfield, then the world-class left back could end up being a deal that pays off big-time for Florentino Perez.

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Lest we forget, Real Madrid needed both left back and midfield depth for the next season. Maybe instead of criticizing Alaba’s terrible performances at center back, we should highlight his effectiveness in the roles he’s actually meant to fulfill. He is already a proven commodity at left back, and he is starting to look like a classy midfielder, too, as his experience is aiding him in a transition to his dream role of ruling the pitch from the middle.