The Bayern Munich defender looks set to leave the European champions and the Blues have been linked in the past, but should they renew their interest in the January transfer window?
A transfer saga is brewing in Bavaria. David Alaba’s future as a Bayern Munich player has been uncertain for some time, but the news of the breakdown in talks between the two parties over a new contract has seen the rumour mill shift into overdrive.
As a result, Alaba’s next destination is the subject of much speculation.
“I heard it like everyone else on the news,” the Austrian defender told reporters recently when asked how he reacted to finding out Bayern Munich had withdrawn their offer of a five-year deal.
“I cannot say how it will continue from this point. I am glad to be playing for Bayern, and to be a part of the team. But what the future will look like after yesterday evening I just cannot say, as no one has talked to me officially.”
The relationship between club and player might well be damaged beyond repair, which could be of benefit to Chelsea, one of the teams believed to be monitoring Alaba’s situation. But how would the 28-year-old fit into Frank Lampard’s side?
While Alaba made his name as one of the best left-backs in Europe, last season saw him shifted into a role in the centre of Bayern’s defence. This was partly due to the emergence of Alphonso Davies, but Hansi Flick also saw the Austrian for his skill-set and how that would help his team play out from the back.
Alaba is not an orthodox centre-back. He plays there as the first line of attack, or more accurately as the first line of possession. No Bayern player averaged more passes per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga last season than Alaba (86.7), with Alaba also averaging five long balls per 90 minutes.
This illustrates just how integral the Austrian is to the way Bayern move the ball up the pitch. While the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller and Serge Gnabry are the ones who do the damage in terms of their instinct in front of goal, Alaba is central to the way these attacking talents are harnessed.
He could perform a similar role for Chelsea. The Blues spent over £300million on new signings over the summer, but the majority of that money was poured on the attack. Ben Chilwell arrived in a £50 million deal from Leicester City to give Lampard the new long-term left back he wanted, but at centre back only Thiago Silva was added to the squad on a free transfer.
Silva has added a physical presence to Chelsea’s backline, but Lampard still needs someone alongside the Brazilian to bring the ball out from the back. Silva has actually performed this role in the games he has played this season, averaging 95.5 passes per 90 minutes – more than any other Chelsea player. However, Lampard would ease the load on the 36-year-old by splitting his responsibilities across two players.
Alaba could help unleash Chelsea’s attackers higher up the pitch just as he does at Bayern. Again, this is another area where the Austrian could ease some of the burden on Silva, who has averaged 6.3 long balls per 90 minutes for Chelsea in the Premier League so far this season. Lampard could achieve a better balance by deploying Alaba alongside the veteran.
Chelsea are a work-in-progress right now. Lampard is still figuring out his team after so much activity over the summer, but it’s still clear that Alaba would give the Blues something they need.
If the Austrian does leave Bayern either in January or next summer, the Stamford Bridge club should be among those leading the pursuit to sign him.