The lightning-quick Bayern Munich and Canada star tells World Soccer all about his career so far.
What’s your earliest football memory – did you start playing when you moved to Canada, or before that?
“It was in Canada that I first really started playing. There was a programme that allowed kids from the city to play football after school and I didn’t ever miss a session. Football is growing [in Canada], but it isn’t the most popular sport. For me it was all I ever wanted to play though, and there is the chance to develop in Canada.”
You’re an established player in the national team, and part of an exciting new generation. Do you think Canada can qualify for the World Cup again?
“It has been so long but I really do believe in the qualities of this team and I can see us putting up a real fight for a place at the 2022 World Cup. It would be an incredible moment, not just for the team, but for the country as a whole.”
Did you ever consider playing for Ghana or Liberia?
“I am proud of my heritage and the heritage of my parents, but I was just five years old when I moved to Canada. It has been my home for so long and it was where I grew up, so those were the reasons behind my decision.”
Do you think there is more talent like yours in MLS? Do you believe it gets the respect it deserves as a league?
“There will be more talent for sure, and I hope that young players coming through can see that playing for the big teams in Europe doesn’t just have to be a dream.”
Was it always an ambition of yours to play in Europe? Did you have any other offers before choosing Bayern Munich?
“Europe is always the ambition for any professional I think, because of the standard. I think that there were conversations with one or two other clubs, but Bayern was an easy choice and the right choice.”
Which senior players helped you to settle in when you arrived in Munich, who did you look to learn from and who are your friends at the club?
“All of the players and coaches were so helpful to me, but David Alaba has been a big help. He was one of the best left-backs in the world and now he is one of the best centre-backs in the world. I have tried to learn all I can off him because there is so much he has to teach.”
You arrived at Bayern as a winger but have established yourself as first choice at left-back – was that a difficult transition? What do you think will be your best position long term?
“Switching from left-winger to left-back was not as difficult as you might imagine because I have played there many times before for the national team and also for the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Bundesliga is of course a higher level, and even though I am happy with my performances I want to learn more about the position.”
Do you look at somebody like Gareth Bale, who made his name as a left-back before being pushed forward – so almost a role reversal to what you’ve experienced?
“Gareth Bale is an absolutely fantastic player who has achieved so much and won many trophies. I don’t compare, though – if the coach asks me to play at left-back that’s where I play, and if he asks me to play on the left wing that’s where I play.”
In June against Werder Bremen, you set a new Bundesliga speed record, running at over 36 kilometres per hour. Do you believe you’re the quickest footballer in Europe?
“Maybe! I am grateful for my pace. I am new to playing left-back so when I get caught out of position I can use my pace to make up for it. I am happy to have pace, but as I grow
I want to focus more on my positioning and learning rather than just thinking I can rely on my pace. Pace has always been a part of my game; I knew I had it very early on playing at school and I’ve always been pleased to have it.”
You said that Lionel Messi didn’t want to swap shirts after your Champions League semi-final victory against Barcelona – what was it like playing against him?
“He was upset. I understand that – nobody wants to exit the Champions League when you are so close to the final. For me, Messi was an idol while I was growing up in Canada, so to play against him was a dream come true.”
In your first season as a first-team regular at Bayern, you’ve played a key part in a treble-winning team – has that sunk in yet?
“Sometimes I think about it and can’t believe that it is all happening, but the reality is that I have to be focused. We want to fight for all the trophies this season, I want to improve, I want to get better. There is no time to think about the success of last season.”
What was going through your mind that night in August after you’d won the Champions League?
“It sounds like a cliché, I know, but it was a dream come true. As a kid playing football in Canada you dream of playing for one of the big teams in Europe and winning the Champions League. That night in Lisbon one of my dreams did come true.”
What are your objectives for the future? Do you see yourself at Bayern for a long time or would you like to sample different leagues?
“I want to stay in Germany and with Bayern for as long as possible. I arrived in Europe with so many dreams and already Bayern have helped me achieve many of them. But I am just getting started – there will be many more.”
You’ve spoken about wanting to be an actor in the future. It must help that you’re already TikTok famous?
“It is a dream! I think it would be a lot of fun, but before that I hope I have many more years of football left to play. During the restrictions I obviously had a lot more time to make the videos. It’s important to me that fans get to see a bit of my personality. I like to have fun and spread some joy, so yes, I am sure there will be more.”
Interview by Donald Deane