FC Bayern – Miasanrot Advent Calendar, Door 42: Jamal Musiala
A guest arcticle by Manuel Veth.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup is history, and with it, we might have also seen the final chapter of Lionel Messi’s career. The void left once Messi departs from the grandest stage will be partly filled by Kylian Mbappé. The Frenchman dragged his team to the final and then scored three goals to have France come within two penalties of becoming the first nation to defend the World Cup since Brazil did the double in 1958 and 1962.
With Messi potentially riding into the sunset, Mbappé will take the stage. But the greatest of every generation was always defined by a second protagonist. The debate whether Cristiano Ronaldo or Messi will be the greatest of their generation will undoubtedly rage on even after both have retired. But who will be Mbappé’s Cristiano if he is about to take Messi’s place?
Some might point to Erling Haaland. But while Haaland will break record after record in the Premier League and then LaLiga, playing for Norway might rob him of the defining moments on the world’s biggest stage.
I will, therefore, make a case for another player: Jamal Musiala. It might be odd to praise Musiala on the backs of yet another disappointing performance by Germany at the World Cup. Indeed, what was once a proud football nation is scrambling for an identity and a way back to the very top of the football Olympus.
The despair that comes with the early exits at the 2018 and 2022 World Cup also comes with a silver lining. First, Germany has been here before; the period following the 1990 triumph in Rome was followed by two disappointing World Cups in 1994 and 1998. Second, in Musiala, Germany has a player who might seriously challenge Mbappé’s reign as the best player in the world in the coming decade.
Only 19, Musiala has already scored 27 goals and 17 assists in 100 games across all competitions for Bayern Munich. This season’s stats, in particular, have been impressive, as he scored 12 goals and 10 assists in 22 games across all competitions.
But there is more! According to Wyscout, Musiala, despite playing just three games at the World Cup, attempted the third most dribbles of any player at the tournament (57). Only Messi (59) and Mbappé (64) had more dribble attempts.
It is an incredible stat from a 19-year-old player playing his first-ever World Cup. And perhaps the entire conversation where Musiala is placed in the Pantheon of world football would be very different if Spain had gotten the job done against Japan on matchday 3.
Because throughout the group stage, there was a sense that Musiala was just one moment away from putting his stamp on this German team, carrying them the same way as superstars like Mbappé, Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo have done either at this tournament or in the past.
What that could look like has been witnessed by those watching Bayern Munich regularly this season. Musiala dragged the Rekordmeister through their difficult period in the fall when Bayern failed to win a Bundesliga game for four games straight, putting on a masterclass in his club’s 4-0 win over Leverkusen that would end the run of poor form.
Musiala’s performances in the Bundesliga this season have, in fact, been astonishing. Musiala leads the league with 16 scorer points (9 goals and 7 assists) this season. According to Wyscout, Musiala also leads the league with 31 deep completions, is fourth with 13 key passes, and, despite not being a classical no.9, has the fourth most touches in the penalty box (72).
Those cold hard numbers underline Musiala’s importance to Bayern. But it is also the way he produces. Nicknamed Bambi for the manner in which Musiala seemingly seems to fumble over the pitch, with his legs flaying all over to place, creating movements that are impossible to predict for defenders.
Watching Musiala, in fact, is like watching a dancer making his way through the dance floor, having bystanders stop and watch. There is indeed something mesmerizing about seeing the kid handle the ball, creating space out of nowhere, an attribute not seen since a young Thomas Müller. But Musiala, even though he has many of the same characteristics of a young Müller, is far more elegant.
What the two have, and which also brings us back to Mbappé, is a directness in the box. Musiala likes to go directly to the jugular, and while his finishing has not been excellent at the World Cup, he has since started working with specialists to improve his final touch in crucial moments.
Already it is scary to think that Musiala is not anywhere near a final product. Sometimes the improvements can be seen within a game as the teenager seems to learn on the spot. That, too, is an incredible trade that will, without a doubt, lead him to the Pantheon of the very top talent in the world.
Either way, Musiala is the future, both for Bayern and Germany. For Germany, in fact, he could define a generation and become one of the brightest players ever to wear the shirt; the mission for the DFB is now to build a team around Musiala and give the world a counter-protagonist to Kylian Mbappé.