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Alaba, Ekici and Contento give it their best shot

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Alaba, Ekici and Contento give it their best shot

Postby FCBayernNews » Sat Jan 09, 2010 5:45 pm

A training camp like Bayern's current winter workout in Dubai can be an energy-sapping experience. It involves pushing your body to the limit, remaining focused on the work at hand with heavy limbs, and asserting yourself in one-on-one competition. And for the youngest members of the group it often means putting in an extra shift.

This has been the experience of 17-year-old David Alaba and of Mehmet Ekici and Diego Contento, both 19, three up-and-coming players from Bayern's reserve squad who travelled with the first team pros to take part in the training camp. At the airport they had to knuckle down and haul boxes around, while in Dubai they helped to unload the team bus on arrival at the training ground. But the three youngsters have enjoyed the experience nevertheless.

"It's been great fun," Ekici told "It's a very special experience to be in Dubai with the first team." Alaba also expressed his delight: "Every boy dreams of taking part in a training camp with all the Bayern stars." Added Contento: "It's great to spend the whole day with the first-teamers. But our ambition is to play alongside them."

The three youngsters will have to wait a bit longer to make their professional bow. "It will be a little while before they're ready for the first team," said Christian Nerlinger. However, the Bayern sporting director also revealed: "They will train with the first team throughout the second half of the season." Taking part in the Dubai training camp has opened up a great opportunity to Alaba, Ekici and Contento, but also launched "the most difficult phase in heir young careers," as Nerlinger put it. "This will also show how they deal with setbacks."

Van Gaal as mentor

All three have enjoyed ideal careers so far, especially Alaba. The 17-year-old skipped the U-19 level this season to go straight into the second team squad. Last October he celebrated his debut for the Austrian national team, becoming the youngest international footballer in the country's history. Now, like Ekici and Contento, who are playing their third and second seasons respectively in the third division, Alaba is knocking on the door of the first-team squad.

"They have a great opportunity to break into Bayern's first team," said Louis van Gaal, something that can create "great pressure for these young players". However, the Bayern coach, who is known for his success as a mentor to up-and-coming youngsters, is confident they are capable of meeting the challenge. "I believe anything is possible," he said, pointing to players such as Xavi, Iniesta, Seedorf, Davids, Litmanen and many others who established themselves as professionals under his guidance. Most recently he helped Holger Badstuber and Thomas Müller make a meteoric entry into the first-team ranks during the first half of the season.

Giving it everything

"The coach has been a huge support for us," Alaba reported. "We're learning so much here." Van Gaal has been keeping a close eye on the youngsters in Dubai, not sparing them criticism but being willing to explain and not stinting on praise either. "Contento, very good work!" he yelled, punching the air, after Contento, under pressure from two opponents, sent a lobbed pass to a team-mate. A little earlier he had interrupted a passing exercise to take the 19-year-old to one side and give him a few tips.

"It's great to watch them," responded Nerlinger when asked for his assessment. "You can see how well they keep up. They have the opportunity to show what they can do and to improve." The young Bayern trio are determined to use that opportunity. As Ekici said: "We simply have to give it all we've got."
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