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Why Bayern Munich? The two paths of Alphonso Davies and Liam Morrison

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Two stars in the making chose to take the next step in their careers at Bayern Munich. What draws elite youth talents to Bayern Munich?

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FC Bayern Muenchen - Training Session Photo by A. Beier/Getty Images for FC Bayern

Two roads to Bayern

The discussion around BFW often turns to just how and how effectively Bayern are developing young players. Despite a dearth of breakthrough juniors in the last few years, Bayern continue to spend time and money recruiting top youth talent to fill the ranks and supplement the big squad. The question arises, just what is it about Bayern that draws top young talent to the organization? Is it just money? Is it the name? I decided to take a close look at how two very different future stars made the choice to come to Bayern Munich to see what could be learned. Let’s have a look at the very different roads Alphonso Davies and Liam Morrison took to come to Bayern.

Alphonso Davies: convinced by the plan

Davies’ background is well-known and inspirational. Born to Liberian parents in a refugee camp in Ghana, Phonzie moved with his family to Canada, where his parents worked multiple jobs so he could pursue his soccer dream. Starting in the Free Footie program for underprivileged youth, he rose through the ranks like a rocket, becoming a star for the Canadian National Team and for the Vancouver Whitecaps of the MLS before he was 18. So how did this young talent come end up coming to Bayern?

It was not due to Bayern’s outstanding scouting at all. In fact, Bayern were very late to the Davies party. A little background is needed to understand the story.

[Details and quotes below from The Province.]

Davies did not have a regular “agent” until just before he signed for Bayern. His legal representative is Nick Househ, an IT executive from Edmonton. Davies had ended up playing on this team, the Edmonton Strikers. Househ’s son played with Davies. The two young men became close and Phonzie spent a lot of time at the Househ house. Rich became a second father figure for Davies and eventually registered as his player representative.

As Davies exploded onto the scene things got crazy. Manchester United and Liverpool amongst other teams made offers. Agents and fake agents and fake team reps came out of the woodwork. At this stage, Househ says of Bayern’s interest in Davies: “He wasn’t even on their radar.”

As they moved forward in the process, Househ engaged a British agent to assist with the legal issues. This agent had great respect for Bayern and suggested they reach out to the club. Around the same time, Davies was named to the MLS all star team, and then Davies terrorized the Chicago Fire including one Bastian Schweinsteiger who shared his thoughts with his former team. Bayern went from nowhere to be seen to “all in” in an instant.

But what made Davies choose Bayern over other elite teams that offered more money? It was the plan. As The Province puts it, “Bayern’s professionalism, presentation and, most importantly, their plan, blew everyone across the table from them away.”

Bayern put together a very specific plan for Davies’ development that included first-team minutes, excluded loans and residency spells, and set specific, measurable targets and goals for the young man’s development. Bayern explained how they saw him suited to the team’s playing style (including a discussion about his role as a wingback in a 3-5-2) and offered full support for his integration into German culture.

Greg Anderson, VP of operations for the Whitecaps and another friend of the Davies family, said this about the proposals the family considered:

So as we worked through it, and assessed all the different deals, it was clear the best one by far for everybody involved was Bayern. There were a number of deals that were interesting, but none of them ticked all the boxes like Bayern’s did. …at the end of the day, they were the team that wanted him the most. Not just from the perspective of the finances and what they could do to secure the deal with us and the player, but also their plan for him, and the thoughtfulness they’d put into it.

It turns out that Davies is quite coachable — perhaps too coachable. When he arrived at training with the first team, he was told how important possession was, and he over-corrected, becoming too conservative in his play. Over the spring and summer, the coaches have encouraging him to play more aggressively, to pass more vertically, to take on defenders and burst forward. It remains to be seen if he can find the right balance.

Liam Morrison: from good to better

Morrison’s path to Bayern was very different to Davies. Liam grew up in Saltcoats, Ayershire, amongst three generations of passionate Celtic fans. His hero is none other than former Celtic player Virgil van Dijk. He had played for all of his age groups at the club and has developed into a leader for the youth sides of Scotland. In their pre-season for the last two years, he has been with the first squad. He was considered far and away their best young talent and the club fought to convince him to stay at the club of his heart. So how did this exceptional young player end up at Bayern?

[Details and quotes below from The Athletic.]

In contrast to Davies, Bayern reached out to Morrison via his agent. In this case, it was Bayern who was not on his radar. When Morrison got the text from his agent about Bayern’s interest, he thought it was a joke or just unconfirmed rumours. Fortunately it wasn’t.

But, once again, the difference-maker was the quality of Bayern’s vision and plan for the young player. Bayern presented him with a plan to develop him into one of the best center-backs in the world, which is his stated goal. But Bayern made its case not merely by telling Morrison what they liked about his game, but by telling him where he needed to improve. He said,

We sat in the office and there was a presentation with clips of my game that impressed them, but also they focused on clips of things I needed to progress and work harder on. They’d watched a lot of my matches, analysed my individual game, went through all my stats, and made a plan for me to be successful. They were passionate about developing me as a player, which was a massive boost to making my decision; they’re buying into this as much as I’m buying into this.

They have set up a clear plan of development for the sixteen-year-old, with specific, measurable, timed goals. Morrison elaborated,

The initial plan for the first two years is playing U17s and U19s, to get used to the standard and the German style. The last year of my contract would be playing with the amateur team, and training with the first team. Seeing that they’d mapped out a career path, with a goal at the end of it, I liked that.

In addition to the campus, support and plan, the opportunity to train under the legend Miroslav Klose also had a big impact on the young man.

So far, Liam has taken the bit between his teeth and bolted into the program. Unsatisfied with his own speed and strength, he is in the gym every evening. Even when practice ends, he gathers together some of his U17 team-mates and works on what he has identified as key skills, including breaking the high press and passing out from the back. His work ethic seems almost Robben-like.

And how do we know Morrison is a natural fit for Bayern? One of his fondest footballing memories was a youth tournament he attended in Belgium with his beloved Celtic side. He was the captain of the team and they beat Dortmund 1-0 in the final. He remembers how they scored early in the match and it was backs-to-the-wall desperate defending under his leadership the rest of the way. He treasures the memory of lifting the trophy in that “massive final,” and it has given him a taste for more.

Conclusions: real prospects

The commonality is Bayern’s ability to draft an inspirational but also convincing plan to develop young players. And to judge by the prominent cases above, that approach is far in advance of what other big sides are presenting. Realistic, measurable goals, a massive international platform, and the chance to train with legends of the game make Bayern a contender for any youth players they pursue.