Scout report: Alphonso Davies
After the top talent’s signature, all that remains outstanding is the obligatory medical check, according to the club. Apparently Bayern will pay the Canadians around €13 million. With bonus payments, the sum could reach as much as €20 million. The 17-year-old would then be the most expensive transfer in the history of MLS.
For Bayern this is a continuation of the transfer strategy begun under Michael Reschke of integrating youngsters into the club early on. In Canada, the current assumption is that Davies will see out the MLS season. The regular season there finishes in October. The play-offs last until December. In November, Davies will turn 18. It seems that the transfer, due to FIFA regulations, can only take effect then.
In 2000, Davies was born in Ghana in a refugee camp. His parents had fled there from the brutal civil war in Liberia. After six years, the Davies family got the chance to migrate to Canada and landed, via Windsor, in Edmonton, where he started playing for a football team.
“At 10 years old, Alphonso was baby-sitting his brother and sister … he had to mature really quickly, because there was a lot of responsibility on his shoulders, he was making their food for them… most 10-year-olds were probably playing video games, Alphonso was changing diapers,” recalls his youth coach Nick Huoseh in a documentary that’s worth watching. Davies’ parents worked shift work and simply had no money for a baby-sitter. He had to grow up fast. Certainly a reason why team-mates and managers mark Davies out today as exceptionally mature and focused. On and off the pitch.
In 2015, 14 at the time, he joined the Vancouver Whitecaps youth set-up. After that, it all went quickly. At 15 he debuted in MLS and by doing so become the second youngest debutant after Freddy Adu. At 16 he became a Canadian citizen and represented his country shortly after at the Gold Cup, winning the Golden Boot with three goals. It goes without saying that that made him the youngest ever player used by Canada and also their youngest goal-scorer. In the current season, Davies has finally become a key player in Vancouver and has been involved in 9 goals in 21 games.
Davies’ biggest strength can be noticed in seconds: PACE! The left footer, who has played almost all of this season on the left wing, whooshes down his flank like a mixture between an express train and a bulldozer. In MLS there is hardly a full-back who can handle his pace and power. At 1.82m, the 17-year-old is somewhat taller and stronger than most wingers and regularly overpowers his opponents. In addition to that, his acceleration over the first few metres is explosive.
However, Davies is not entirely reliant on his speed. His ball control is tight and well and truly tricky. Above all, the somewhat out-of-fashion stepover defines his dribble attempts. 5.4 successful dribbles is his statistic over 90 minutes. By far the best rating in the whole league and also with a good success rate.
He is almost fearless in the way he constantly breaks through to the opponent’s by-line. Seeing Davies going beyond opponents in his best moments, one is inevitably reminded of still-fresh memories of Kylian Mbappé at the World Cup. Even though we should keep in mind that his opponents in MLS aren’t called Marcelo or Carvajal but Fisher, El-Munir or Petrasso. Even though MLS has increased in quality: at best, we’re talking about a strong second division. Perspective, then, is important.
What sticks out: for a 17-year-old, his decision-making on the pitch is mostly clever and only rare hasty or hectic. In front of goal, he consistently looks for his team-mates in better positions. All in all, he is a very vertical player and always looks to go directly forward, which suits the style of MLS. His first touch is also strong, which he regularly uses to immediately gain space or fool an opponent.
It should also be added that left-footer Davies, if played on the right flank – where he has barely played this season – could be a little freer and thus more dangerous. His deeper passing game could be strengthened by that too.
Defensively, he likewise tries to use his pace as a solution. He works back hard when he loses the ball himself. His work in the tackle is sometimes too naïve. His pressing behaviour is yet to be properly tested. In attack there are always phases in which he has less influence on the game, which does, however, also have to do with his team’s style of play. Vancouver is a counter-attacking-team that almost always has less possession than the opposition.
Adapting to Bayern’s game with a lot of possession and (hopefully) disciplined counter-pressing will be a huge challenge – even if Kingsley Coman has recently shown how much potential an explosive winger can have against teams that sit deep.
Bayern now have a whole armada of hopeful attacking talents at their disposal. Davies, Batista-Meier, Evina, Yeong, Timossi Andersson. All with potential. Davies may, when he comes to Munich, join the queue behind Coman and Gnabry. Of course, a loan in the Bundesliga would make sense to get used to the pace of the Bundesliga and other top European leagues from 2019. The step over the pond into a completely new environment, as mature as Davies has proven himself, is not to be taken lightly. Bayern should go about this cleverly and considerately.
If Davies stays in North America for now, it would at least be sensible to find him a team for the following year that plays possession football.
All in all: a smart transfer without huge risks and a lot of potential that now has to be fulfilled.