David Alaba said “everything is a shade bigger” at Real Madrid compared to former side Bayern Munich as he learns to cope with the increased expectation to succeed.
Alaba’s 13-year association with Bundesliga champions Bayern came to an end in May after rejecting numerous contract offers at the Allianz Arena and joining LaLiga giants Madrid.
The Austria international has started 13 of Madrid’s 14 matches in all competitions this season – only Eder Militao and Thibaut Courtois have started more often – totalling 1,170 minutes on the field.
Alaba has featured in multiple positions and has instantly made himself a fans’ favourite with the opening goal in the 2-1 El Clasico victory over Madrid’s fierce rivals Barcelona on October 24.
That made Alaba the fifth Madrid player to net on his Clasico bow this century after Brazilian icon Ronaldo (2003), Ruud van Nistelrooy (2006), Raphael Varane and Jese Rodriguez (both 2013).
Alaba has also assisted a couple of goals, meaning only Marco Asensio (four), Vinicius Junior (12) and Karim Benzema (19) have been directly involved in more.
With five clean sheets to his name also, it has been a positive start to a new chapter for Alaba and one the versatile defender is taking in his stride.
“I felt this special aura and atmosphere from day one,” he told Kicker. “You can tell the history of this club when you walk across the training ground or through the city.”
Asked how Madrid compare with Bayern, Alaba added: “Both clubs stand for absolute success. Bayern are one of the biggest clubs in the world, Madrid too.
“There’s not much to separate them. But here at Madrid, without being disrespectful to Bayern, everything is just a shade bigger still.”
Alaba arrived at Madrid shortly before Sergio Ramos departed on a free transfer to Paris Saint-Germain, the long-serving captain having made 671 appearances for the club.
Ramos won four Champions Leagues and five LaLiga titles during his 16 years in the Spanish capital, but Alaba does not consider himself a direct replacement in defence.
“I came here to write my own story and play my game,” he said. “I get the comparisons every now and then, but I don’t really bother with them.
“People accept that I’m here now and play my football. We are also different types of players who can hardly be compared with one another.”
Alaba played a full part in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Elche that places Madrid level with Sevilla and one point behind surprise leaders Real Sociedad, whom they have a game in hand over.
That was Alaba’s 10th appearance in the Spanish top flight and he has already noticed a difference in style compared to the Bundesliga.
“Playing wise, LaLiga is somewhat different,” he said. “Even teams like Levante and Alaves try to play football out from the back.
“As a central defender I have fewer aerial duels after goal-kicks than in the Bundesliga. There it’s played forward more directly.
“In Spain, on the other hand, a lot of stock is placed on ball possession, even by teams who are quite far down the table.
“It’s hard to say which is tougher, but they’re certainly different.”