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Sports Features of Friday, 27 September 2019


Alphonso Davies: The Bayern Munich winger born in a Ghanaian refugee camp

Alphonso Davies has scored twice for Bayern since joining in January Alphonso Davies has scored twice for Bayern since joining in January

Few journeys to the top of professional football can compare with the story of Alphonso Davies - the Bayern Munich youngster who will be featured on Football Focus on Saturday.

Born in a refugee camp in Ghana in 2000, his parents had fled fighting in the second Liberian civil war. They then moved to Canada as refugees when the player was five years old.

Davies joined the Vancouver Whitecaps youth set-up in 2015 at the age of 14, before making his MLS debut a year later, and his big break came in the summer of 2018.

That was when European giants Bayern agreed a Major League Soccer record £9.84m fee to sign the player the following January - and the teenager quickly found himself rubbing shoulders with superstars.

"The first time I came to Bayern Munich, I could not believe it," he told the BBC. "When I got into the locker room, the first person I saw was Arjen Robben and at that time I could not believe what my eyes were seeing.

"He came up to me, shook my hand and said: 'Hi, I am Arjen.' In my head, I thought: 'You do not have to introduce yourself.'

"When I signed, I posted a picture of me holding the shirt on Instagram and there was a comment that said: 'Mats Hummels follows you, [but] you don't follow him back.'

"I searched up his name, followed him back and he sent me a message saying: 'Welcome to the team, look forward to seeing you soon.' I replied back saying: 'Thank you, I can't wait to come.'

"Then more and more players started reaching out. At first I did not believe it was them but then they had the blue tick so it was the real deal."

Davies has played 10 times for Bayern so far, including four appearances off the bench this term, and has scored two goals. He also netted a fantastic 25-yard strike against Tottenham in pre-season.

German football expert Raphael Honigstein: "Davies is exciting but is still raw in his decision making. He will benefit from having game time. The problem is that Niko Kovac instinctively trusts the experienced players.

"He is making the game squads quite often but as far as important games are concerned, it is tough for him.

"I believe that there is a good chance Bayern will do with him what they did with Markus Babbel, Philipp Lahm and David Alaba, which is to lend them out to a friendly club nearby to make sure he gets the game time he needs to get to the next level.

"People say you learn from training but it is not football. To make better decisions, when to stay, when to go, that only comes from regular football. It will be good to get six months somewhere where he knows he will be a guaranteed starter.

"He has got tremendous attributes. He is fast, fearless, he takes on players, has the enthusiasm and courage to play in different positions. He gets thrown in at left-back, does not complain and tries his best. He has everything you need to become a top-class professional.

"But the step up from Vancouver to Bayern is so enormous that you almost get lost. You are a Bayern player but not a regular, what does that mean? Are you better off at this stage to be a regular at a club that is one level below Bayern and then come back as a more rounded professional?

"If the season pans out as it is, he has big players in front of him in the wide positions, such as Philippe Coutinho, Ivan Perisic, Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman. It is tough for him to break in.

"Come Christmas, he might have to sit down with Bayern and ask what is his realistic chances for the next six months. Maybe he is much better off going on loan to Hoffenheim or Stuttgart and it should be seen not as a step down, but a way of progressing."