At the age of just 23, Bayern Munich man David Alaba was named the Austrian Player of the year last week for the fifth time in his career.
He is most commonly remembered in Ireland for that stunning last minute goal he scored in the Aviva Stadium to draw the game and end any hopes the Irish had of making it the 2014 World Cup.
While people don’t take to his name too fondly on these shores, in Austria he is a football icon as his five successive player of the year awards suggest. He has been winning the award every year since he was 18, a huge achievement.
To put it into perspective, Austria have some good players also competing for that award. Right back Christian Fuchs plays at Leicester City, Arnautovic is at Stoke City, Mark Janko scored seven goals in their Euro 2016 campaign, so there is stiff competition.
These are not the only individual awards Alaba has received in his relatively short career. He was voted Austrian sports personality of the year in 2013 and 14, he was given a place in the UEFA team of the year the past two seasons and was given a place in the Champions League team of the group stages earlier this month.
Playing for Bayern Munich of course he has plenty of team honours as well. The Austrian has four Bundesliga titles, three German Cups, one Champions League and a FIFA World Club Cup medal to his name.
On a scale of one to 10, he has always been an eight or a nine, sometimes 10. He is one of the most important players for Bayern Munich.
– Pep Guardiola on Alaba earlier this year
He is already capped 42 times for his country, scoring 11 times including four goals in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign as he helped Austria reach the Euro’s for only the second ever time, the first being in 2008.
Like Robbie Keane was in Ireland, Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Sweden and Neymar in Brazil. David Alaba is the face of Austrian football, the first player that people think of is Alaba, he is even the cover star of EA Sports’FIFA16 in Austria alongside Lionel Messi.
The most capped player in the history of Austrian football is Andreas Herzog, with a career spanning from 1988 to 2002 Herzog has a total of 103 international appearances for his country.
It took Herzog until he was 25 to reach the 42 caps that Alaba already has at the age of 23. It is a long way to go reach Herzog’s record but Alaba is on course to do so.
As impressive as Alaba’s record is, it is blown out of the water by fellow 23-year-old Neymar who already has 69 caps for Brazil, other 23-year-old’s include Thibaut Courtois with 32 caps and Marco Verratti on 15 caps.
Alaba is only six caps behind his club teammate and fellow 23-year-old Mario Gotze on 48, a lot to do with Germany’s progression to further stages in almost every tournament including the last World Cup where of course Gotze scored the winner in the final.
Next summer’s Euro’s will be Alaba’s first taste of an International finals beginning his International career in 2009, one year after Austria’s last appearance in a major competition
Of Nigerian descent through his father, Austria must be counting their luck that the talented young man opted to play for his country of birth instead of his fathers home.
Beginning his career in Austria he signed for Austria Wien at the age of 10, he was just 16 when Bayern Munich acquired his talents in 2008 for a fee believed to be in the region of €150,000, a minute fraction of what he is estimated to be worth these days.
He has since established himself as the best left back in Europe as his awards on the UEFA team of the year two years in a row suggest appearing for Munich 192 times, scoring 18 times.
While he plays left back normally for Bayern Munich, he is considered a utility player and his preferred position is in central midfield where he plays for the national side and is the talisman of the side.
He was the second top scorer for the Austrian in their recent qualifying campaign scoring four, behind Marc Janko. He also amassed three assists despite missing two games through injuries.
Next summer he will be one of the stars of the show for Austria as he attempts to help them progress past the group stages in a European Championship’s for the first time ever.
Judging by their group he has every chance of doing it, drawn alongside Hungary, Iceland and Portugal, Alaba and his teammates will be confident in their chances of beating all of those teams.
Currently injured, the 23-year-old is expected to return in January as Bayern bid to win the title for the fourth year running and win their first Champions League under Pep Guardiola starting with a last 16 tie with last years beaten finalists Juventus.