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Real Madrid’s David Alaba Is Mr. Dependable—A Sign Of Cautious Finances

David Alaba is a highly skilled, reliable soccer player. Over ten years inside the golden camp of German powerhouse Bayern Munich tells its own story. Yet when Real Madrid made the versatile Austrian its first summer signing, the move was not greeted with a sense of uniform joy among fans.

On the one hand, they are excited to see the latest addition. Alaba, an all-rounder in many ways, is as comfortable going forward as he is stifling strikers and will likely make a positive impression. More importantly, however, Alaba remains Los Blancos’ sole newcomer since the transfer window opened, so supporters have had no choice but to discuss their only arrival so far.

The last point better explains any enthusiasm, which has been modest. While the full-back—who can also operate centrally—fits the bill in terms of experience, he is not the marquee star of times gone by: the billboard-fronting, generational talent Real has previously courted, the name each follower wants on the back of their shirt, nor the clear candidate to steal the title back from rival Atlético Madrid next term. That is not to say he isn’t dynamic, only that he deviates slightly from the norm—he is 29 and signed for no cost.

Quite plainly, that is because Real is not its dazzling self right now. Supporters still demand the best, president Florentino Pérez still dreams of a Super League befitting the side’s super-club stature, and the team still expects to win trophies, despite finishing last campaign with nothing for the first time in over a decade. The thing is, Real can no longer cherrypick the best around for high fees, something symptomatic of the current soccer market.

By early September, there may well be reinforcements. Raphäel Varane is now virtually a Manchester United player, leaving the Spanish capital in a deal worth around €50 million ($59 million). More sales could vacate funds for new faces, but brave spending is no longer customary for the most successful club in Europe, a team now searching for other solutions.

In essence, Real has a dependable talent in Alaba, assuming he avoids the same injury-trodden path as Eden Hazard, a substantial 2019 investment and often sidelined. Hazard may be the last and most disappointing galáctico of his kind, an ambitious punt from the pre-Covid era, a then vibrant attacker at the peak of his powers, equipped with a montage of mazy dribbles and exquisite goals from his stint at Chelsea.

Hazard and Madrid have not harmonized, and for all Alaba’s qualities, the latter does not possess the same headline status as, say, hotshots Kylian Mbappé or Erling Haaland. Still, the picture is not so bleak for Real. A few confident youth players have come through, such as Antonio Blanco and Víctor Chust, and gratis Alaba could turn out to be a clever acquisition. Firstly, no price tag means nothing to lose. Secondly, he is already one of the most capable wing-backs on the continent, so the chance of him disappointing is slim. He’s a safe bet.

Alaba, who has begun training with his teammates, is yet to play a match in Madrid white but is used to lifting silverware, having already won ten Bundesliga titles and two Champions Leagues with Bayern. He also enters a new league with a commendable European Championship showing under his belt, after helping Austria force eventual winner Italy to extra time in the knockout stages. Such endeavors will stand him in good stead to start in a renewed defensive line next season, with ex-captain and leader Sergio Ramos now at Paris Saint-Germain.

Real’s latest number four illustrates the state of play in La Liga. Despite securing his…

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