Meet Alphonso Davies – the prodigy Bayern Munich imported from the MLS

On 25 July 2018, Bayern Munich announced that they have an agreement with MLS club Vancouver Whitecaps to sign 17-year-old Alphonso Davies for an MLS record $13.5 million. Davies is set to join Bayern at the end of the 2018 MLS season but who exactly is he and why did Bayern pay a hefty fee to secure his signature?

Bayern Munich is the fourth richest club in the world and one of the league champions from Europe’s Top 5 leagues. What sets them apart from the rest of the champions in the top 5 leagues is their refusal to splurge. The cost of their record signing is significantly smaller than that of last season’s champions of England, Spain, Italy and France.  

In addition, of all the teams that reached the quarter-final of the UEFA Champions League last season, Bayern has the lowest transfer spending in the last two years. Even lower than AS Roma and Sevilla. Now that we have established that Bayern doesn’t splurge nor do they take gambles, there has to be a reason why they spent a significant transfer fee on a rather unproven teenager playing in the MLS.

BACKGROUND

Alphonso Davies was born in a refugee camp in Ghana after his parents fled the civil war in Liberia which displaced more than 450,000 people. Like every refugee, his family also yearned a better life and when Alphonso was five-years-old, his family found asylum in Canada.

“It was hard to live because the only way you survive sometimes is you have to carry guns. We didn’t have any interest in shooting guns. So, we decided to just escape from there. They have a program called resettlement, and they said ‘OK, you have to fill in a form for Canada.’ We went through the interview and everything, and made it, and came over here.” – Alphonso’s father, Debeah, recollects.

His family worked long hours to make ends meet and he helped in raising his two younger siblings. Even as a child, people noticed him for his footballing abilities that defied his age and he had the opportunity to join The St. Nicholas Soccer Academy. By the age of 14, he was enrolled in the Vancouver Whitecaps’ residency program. When Alphonso joined Whitecaps, he was initially part of its U16 team but within months, he went from U16 to U18 to Whitecaps Football Club to the senior team.

A record breaker and the face of Canadian football

On 15 July 2016, Alphonso signed a first-team contract with Whitecaps and the following day, he made his MLS debut aged 15 years, eight months and 15 days old to become the second youngest player in the league’s history behind Freddy Adu. He also became the first player born in the 2000s to play in an MLS match.

After his debut season in the MLS, he caught the eye of European giants like Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea. However, he stayed with Whitecaps and his development in the next two seasons was exponential.

By the end of the 2017 MLS season, Davies played 48 games for Whitecaps and had four goals and assists each to his name. However, in the 2018 season, his numbers improved drastically as he racked up 6 goals and 10 assists in only 32 games. His improved performance didn’t go unnoticed as he was included in the 2018 MLS All-Star squad.   

After breaking through with Whitecaps, Alphonso represented Canada’s junior teams but he was only eligible to play for the senior side after he received his Canadian citizenship in June 2017. In the same month, he made his debut for the senior team and in July he made history with his brace against French Guiana to become Canada’s youngest goalscorer, the youngest player to score at a Gold Cup and also the first player born in the 21st century to score at a major international tournament. He also scored against Costa Rica in the very next game to claim the tournament’s Golden Boot.

A week after he received his Canadian citizenship, he delivered a moving speech on behalf of North America’s ‘United bid’ to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup at the FIFA Congress.

STYLE OF PLAY

The soon to be 18-year-old is a pacey winger who’s very comfortable with the ball at his feet. His close control, eye for a pass, dribbling skills and the tricks up his sleeve are the perfect attributes for a winger. The notable improvement in his end product this year is an encouraging sign as it shows that he’s working hard on his game. 

A lot of promising forwards are forced to develop the defensive side of their game when they play for top European clubs but that shouldn’t be an issue for Alphonso as he doesn’t shy away from his defensive duties.

LA Galaxy striker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, is usually reserved with his praise of other players but Zlatan, who is refugee himself, only had words of encouragement for the youngster. 

“If he’s going to Bayern, then he’s a good player. They don’t choose bad players, especially young ones. At a club like Bayern, he will learn a lot. If they saw something, they saw something big, because they don’t get anyone just like that.”

“I just hope he’s ready when he goes there, because when he arrives he will be lonely and the competition will be big, so he needs to be mentally strong. And when he sees the big players, not show too much respect. You’re going there for a reason because you’re part of the team. Then it’s up to him to do the rest, so I see a bright future!” – Ibrahimovic said after his side’s win over Whitecaps in October.

Alphonso will join the Bayern squad in January 2019 and it will take him a while to adjust to the new surroundings and cope with the demands of European football. However, he has the potential to become a first-team player at Bayern and be their long-term replacement for the ageing Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.

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