As soon as Bayern Munich withdrew their offer of a new contract to David Alaba, the starting pistol was fired on one of 2021’s defining transfer sagas. The Austrian is considered one of the game’s very best in his position, playing a key role for the Bavarians in their Treble triumph of last season. Nonetheless, the ground is being prepared at the Allianz Arena for Alaba’s exit.
A number of potential destinations have been mooted. Chelsea and Manchester City were both linked with Alaba during the summer. Manchester United are widely believed to be monitoring the situation, with Real Madrid even making an offer to the Austrian international which would see him earn €10 million a season.
Most recently, though, it’s been claimed Liverpool are pushing hard to sign Alaba as a free agent at the end of the season (as per Italian football journalist Fabrizio Romano). The Premier League champions have reportedly made contact with the 28-year-old’s representatives.
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Of course, Liverpool raided Bayern Munich for Thiago Alcantara in the summer window and in Alaba the Reds could lure another key figure at the peak of his powers from the Bavarians. But how would he fit into Jurgen Klopp’s side and system? Is he what Liverpool really need at this moment in time?
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Having made his name as a left back, Alaba was moved into a more central role by Hansi Flick this season. The Austrian isn’t an orthodox centre back and essentially acts as a deep-lying playmaker in a defensive position. Alaba is a crucial part of the way Bayern Munich play out from the back, of how they construct attacking moves.
Positionally, Alaba would be a good fit for the Reds. The Austrian plays on the left side of Bayern Munich’s centre-back pairing. Meanwhile, Liverpool’s dominant defender, Virgil van Dijk, plays on the right side of the Klopp’s central defensive duo. There would be clear scope for the two players to forge a strong understanding.
Van Dijk, however, is the one who starts many of Liverpool’s attacking moves from the back. Indeed, the Dutchman played more long passes than any of his teammates in the Premier League last season (5.4). This isn’t far off Alaba’s average of five long passes per Bundesliga appearance last season. The Austrian also ranked 13th for completed passes which entered the final third in Europe’s top five leagues.
It’s possible Alaba and Van Dijk could both perform this passing role from the back. Having two players capable of sending a ball straight into an attacker 50 yards away could open up a number of new angles for Liverpool. It could have just as big an impact on how they attack as a unit as how they defend.
Of course, Alaba’s background as a left back would also give Liverpool depth in that position. Kostas Tsimikas was signed in the summer to act as a deputy to Andy Robertson, but the Greek international remains something of an unknown quantity having made just three appearances for the Reds this season. Alaba would be a proven option to protect against any Robertson injury or suspension.
This versatility surely appeals to Klopp, who likes his players to be deployable in a number of positions and in a number of different ways. Alaba’s skill set is also varied enough that Liverpool would find something in there to lift their game, whether it be through the Austrian’s long passing ability, his capacity for carrying the ball up the pitch or even his potency from freekicks. He might not strengthen Liverpool as a defensive unit, but there are many other ways he could improve them.
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