Nick Bidwell’s Notes from Germany: Alphonso Davies Is One For The Future
The finesse on the ball of an Isco or Hazard. As modest and hard-working as Harry Kane. Seventeen-year-old Canadian left-winger-winger Alphonso Davies, due to leave Vancouver Whitecaps for Bayern Munich in January, could be said to cut the figure of a footballing chosen one.
A product of the Whitecaps youth system, ‘Phonzie’, only has been playing top-flight football for a couple of seasons, a mere 15 when making his MLS debut against Orlando City in July 2016. But how quickly he has gone from chick to soaring eagle, establishing himself as the most exciting talent in US soccer and becoming the youngest player ever to start and score for the full Canuck national team.
Bayern’s decision to shell out a record fee for an MLS player (19 million euros including add-ons), represents something of a new frontier in the German champions’ recruitment outlook. Aghast at the explosion in transfer fees for creme de la creme performers, Bayern believe there’s a better way – the early targeting of well-scouted youthful promise and careful in-house nurturing.
When Davies arrives in Bavaria next year, he will not be thrown straight into the deep end. While scheduled to train with the first-team, he exclusively will turn out for the club’s Under 23s, a bedding in process expected to last around 12-18 months. Bayern are convinced they have pulled off a coup here, swooning at Davies’ tricks, bullet-from-a-gun speed and light heavyweight boxer physique. Yet they also realise that a happy ending cannot be guaranteed. For every talented kid that makes the grade, there’s a so-called boy wonder who loses his way. A Martin Odegaard at Real Madrid or Alen Halilovic during his ill-fated spell with Barcelona.
Besides his technical and athletic gifts, the other key factor Davies has in his favour is his down-to-earth attitude. He doesn’t appear to buy into the hype, has an excellent work ethic and even has promised his mother that he will finish his high school studies. Davies and his kith and kin certainly have had their hard times. His parents, both Liberian nationals, were forced to flee the civil war in that country and Alphonso himself was born in a refugee camp in Ghana. The family emigrated to Canada when he was five, eventually settling in Edmonton, the capital city of the Alberta province. Edmonton appropriately is known as “The City of Champions’.
“Seeing where they (his parents) came from and where we are now, I think that’s one of the reasons I try to keep a level head,” Davies recently declared in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Company. “Every game I play I treat like it’s my last.” Words of wisdom indeed.
What We Learned This Week
1. Kroos honoured.
Not surprisingly, Nationalmannschaft midfield thinker and linker Toni Kroos has been voted German Player of the Year for 2017-18. The Real Madrid star, who last spring won his third consecutive Champions League winners’ medal, comfortably topped the poll, voted number one by almost 50 per cent of the 485 respondants in the national sports journalist union. Runners-up was prolific Freiburg striker Nils Petersen with 39 votes. Schalke’s Brazilian centre-back Naldo took third-place on the podium.
2. Curtain up and missed cues.
Experiencing the culture shock of second division football for the first time in their existence, Hamburg got off to the worst possible start in the ‘2.Liga’, humbled 3-0 at home by northern neighbours Holstein Kiel. “We must not have a knee-jerk reaction and immediately throw out all our plans,” advised HSV coach Christian Titz. ” We were not complacent. It was just one of those days when things go against you, ” The one bright spot for Hamburg – the sell-out 57,000 attendance at the Volksparkstadion.
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