To be a professional soccer player and be purchased by a major club like Bayern Munich is a dream shared by many around the world. But to be good enough to get minutes for the first team at 18 years old is as rare as it gets.
He may not have seen much playing time, but Alphonso Davies isn’t fazed by a lack of minutes as he trains alongside some of the best players in Europe. For him, his development as a player is more important than his senior-team contributions.
In an in-depth interview (The Athletic; paywall) Davies talks about his efforts to integrate himself into the team, the bonds he is making and his progress toward becoming the next young phenom for the German champions.
His days follow a similar routine: he wakes up at his apartment near the Säbener Straße, drives to training in an Audi provided by the team, and gets a good joke about Canadian maple syrup cracked at his expense.
After training sessions, he takes German lessons several times during the week in an effort to fit in with the club. He finds the language difficult, but also important since the club’s players and staff use German more frequently than English, as he was used to speaking when playing for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Davies is making attempts to befriend members of the team, with David Alaba being his closest friend their. However, the language barrier prevents him from getting as close to the veterans as he did in the past:
Davies has yet to find a senior player with whom he’s connected on the level that he did with one of his Whitecaps mentors, Kei Kamara.... “I haven’t really found someone like that,” Davies said quietly. “There isn’t anyone in specific.” But he understands that integrating more with the first team could only benefit his game. “You learn so much and you gain so much advice from experienced players that I can apply to my game.”
His development is being nurtured thanks to close communication with Niko Kovac. As he began training with the team, Davies found the pressures of European football to be very different:
“My first two weeks in training, I was messing up a lot,” Davies confessed.... “Players close down early,” said Davies of Bayern training. “Your first touch has to be good to be able to move the ball forward.” Compared to sessions with the Whitecaps, Bayern’s training focuses on much quicker ball movement... (with) the expectation that touches and ball movement are much more precise. “The hunger is much stronger here,” said Davies of training at Bayern compared to the Whitecaps. “There’s so much more to lose.”
However, Davies took to the new challenges at Bayern and has learned from his mistakes those first weeks in Munich. Even Kovac commented on his progress: “He adapted quickly,” Kovac said of Davies. “He has integrated into the team well and he is a nice young man. We need quality, that’s why he’s here.”
But, as with most young players, first-team minutes are hard to come by while playing with a top-tier side. Accordingly, Davies was moved down to FC Bayern II. The tabloids pounced on the situation, with one outlet in particular questioning the move on Bayern’s part.
However, a deep dive into the decision-making process revealed that Davies made the decision himself in order to get more playing-time, despite a full season in MLS under his belt. Davies says he had the opportunity to turn the playing-time down, but he was desperate to get on the pitch.
Kloke sums up Davies’ current mentality as follows:
Playing for the reserves speaks not only to the amount of empowerment Davies has to make decisions that could impact his future, but also just how difficult the road can be for young players joining top-flight sides... Sacrificing his own minutes in the short-term for a chance to be part of Bayern’s long-term plans may also provide a pathway for other players to make a similar decision.
From this article, along with the many others written about his transition, I get the feeling that Davies understands what it means to be 18 years old and playing for a major club. Given his backstory, it’s an amazing feat to be playing for a club like Bayern Munich, and I, for one, like his style of play and am rooting for him.
To me, Davies seems to have his head on straight and living in the reality that he may not get the playing time he wants, but, if he works hard, he’ll get there.
Not every superstar 18-year-old shares Davies’ attitude. Not every 18-year old would jump at the chance to play with the reserves just to get some playing time in. But Alphonso Davies isn’t that player. He seems not only excited about his playing time, but he’s happy that he’s at the club he is. Not only that, but he’s investing in his future by developing his game to prove to the world and himself that he belongs in the European game.
And I think that one day, in the not too distant future, we Bayern fans will be happy that Alphonso Davies took his time and brought out his greatest potential self for this club.