Player of the Month August – Jamal Musiala
The Miasanrot Player of the Month for August has to be, of course, Jamal Musiala. After his blazing start to the season, he has become an absolute crowd favourite – the number of shirts with his 42 printed on it at Bayern home games underlines this. But instead of exploring each of Musiala’s performances in the last weeks in detail, we will focus here on one of Musiala’s fundamental attributes: His rationality.
“He reminds me of Messi a bit.”Lothar Matthäus
When Lothar Matthäus felt reminded of Lionel Messi when he talked about Jamal Musiala a few weeks ago, he probably only thought of his dribbling skills. When Musiala, with his spindly legs – Bambi sends his regards – lowers his head over the ball, as if by his stare he sought to magically arrest the object of his dazzling art at his feet, and starts gliding past opponents, this comparison almost forcibly imposes itself.
Now, not every dribbler resembles Messi. Neymar – long regarded as his successor in the realm of spellbinding close quarters football – is a good example. Without passing any judgement, Neymar is a dozen times more playful in his art of leaving opponents stranded than Musiala. At FC Bayern, Franck Ribéry and, above all, Douglas Costa have been two of the most faithful exemplars of this kind of showmanship artistry. Here an extra step-over, there a Zidane turn. Costa even unleashed the mighty rainbow flick against Leverkusen.
Jamal Musiala’s dribbling seems more pragmatic. When he shows his opponent up with a little Gambetta body trick or simply runs over with a croqueta, it is almost always a deeply rational decision, despite all the attendant spectacle. He simply does what it takes to eliminate his opponent with a well judged move, nothing less, but nothing more either. Circus acts are alien to him. He will never do more step overs than he needs to and he probably does not even do rainbow flicks in training.
It is precisely because of this rationality that such intuitively obvious comparisons with Messi seem appropriate. Messi, too, has done little in the way of simply producing for the gallery, all the spectacle always following a cool calculation of how best to succeed. Arséne Wenger therefore incredulously once called him a “PlayStation” virtuoso, so mechanically calculating did he exploit Arsenal’s mistakes. Lukas Tank simply called him a hyper-rational player.
Hyperrational Musiala he may not yet be, but an extraordinary ability to read the game he certainly has. This ability to grasp the situation at lightning speed before applying the optimal decision is reflected in perhaps his most under-appreciated skill of all: The finish.
Musiala shoots neither exceptionally hard nor exceptionally technically adept. You won’t hear any eulogies about his shooting technique, as commentators like to do with Toni Kroos. And yet Musiala is not only the best Bayern goal scorer of this not-so-young season, he also manages to score almost the exact same goal time and again.
Surrounded by opponents a good 16 metres in front of goal, he sets off on a short dribble, turns and shoots – often slightly covered – low and powerful exactly into the corner. This season he has already scored against Wolfsburg, Stuttgart, and in the Supercup against Leipzig.
He has scored six goals this season. Six low shot goals. The notion of “close your eyes and put your foot through it” is alien to him. When the ball leaves his foot, it is always precise and with a purpose. Still only 19 years old, he shows a maturity here that other really good players do not find during their entire careers.