Starring role beckons for Alphonso Davies at Bayern Munich
ABS-CBN Sports on Jan 16, 2019 08:32 PM
FILE - In this Wednesday, June 13, 2018 file photo, Alphonso Davies of Canada speaks at the FIFA congress on the eve of the opener of the 2018 soccer World Cup in Moscow. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, file)
By Ciaran Fahey, Associated Press
BERLIN (AP) — Canadian teenager Alphonso Davies could be thrown in at the deep end.
The 18-year-old winger will likely get his first taste of Bundesliga action for Bayern Munich in the coming weeks, if not on Friday.
Bayern restarts the league after the winter break at Hoffenheim, where Davies could play because of injuries to Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben. Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman are the only two other healthy wingers Bayern has.
Davies, a naturalized Canadian born in Ghana, completed his $22 million transfer from the Vancouver Whitecaps this month and made his Bayern debut on Sunday in a mid-season warm-up competition, on the right wing against Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Bayern captain Manuel Neuer handed the trophy straight to the youngster after the penalty shootout win over Gladbach, part of his initiation for the Bavarian powerhouse.
"He's still a very young player with things to learn but who also can help us in the near future," Neuer said.
Davies showed glimpses of his potential - the reason Bayern agreed to pay a record for a Major League Soccer player - and could even have been awarded a penalty against Gladbach.
"He's doing really well," Bayern defender Joshua Kimmich said, referring also to Davies' performances at the team training camp in Doha, Qatar. "I think he's going to help us already in the second half of the season."
While expectations are being kept in check, the stage is set for Davies to play a starring role this season. Bayern is six points behind Borussia Dortmund at the halfway stage of the Bundesliga season and well positioned to capitalize on any slip-ups.
Davies, wearing No. 19 at Bayern, said training now is "very different" to what he was used to at the Whitecaps, and that he is determined to make the most of his chance.
It's remarkable that he was given the chance at all. Davies' parents, Victoria and Debeah, fled civil war in Liberia for Buduburam, a refugee camp west of Accra in Ghana. Davies was born there, and the family continued living there until he was 5 before moving to Canada in 2006.
The family settled in Edmonton, where Davies began playing soccer, first at school, then at a free after-school league for inner-city children.
Davies joined the Whitecaps' residency program when he was 14. He went on to become the youngest player to appear in the United Soccer League and became the first player born this century to play in the MLS, at 15 years, 8 months, 15 days.
Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic is responsible for bringing Davies to Europe. Davies' contract with the five-time European champions runs through June 2023.
"He offers a lot of promise for the future. Alphonso already possesses great ability, which is why a lot of top clubs were keen on him," Salihamidzic said when the deal was announced in July.
The fee was the most received by an MLS club in the league's 23-year history.
Before his move to Munich, Davies put on one last show for Vancouver fans on Oct. 28, scoring twice in the Whitecaps' 2-1 victory over the Portland Timbers in the regular-season finale. He finished the season with eight goals and 11 assists.
Now at Bayern, he will be learning from Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Mueller, Thiago Alcantara, James Rodriguez, Robben and Ribery. But Davies isn't at Bayern just to learn.
"He's a young player who was voted player of the year in his homeland. He has huge potential," Bayern coach Niko Kovac said. "We need quality, that's why he's here."