I sat in the terraces of BC Place stadium on July 28, 2018 expecting Minnesota United FC to be overwhelming opposition for the Vancouver Whitecaps. Their previous weeks demolition of Los Angeles FC was pure beauty. Instead, I saw a 17 year-old phenom, buoyed by his recent move to Bayern Munich, dominate a thoroughly entertaining match. Alphonso Davies was everything a top drawer footballer should be expressing the pace of a high-speed train, the finishing of a militant sniper and the dancing skills of Usher in his prime - and he did it all with a beaming, ear-to-ear, endearing smile.
Earlier in the week, Davies sealed a $13.5 million transfer to the Bavarian giants therefore post transfer jitters could be expected of him however there was nothing of the sort. His exuberance was absorbed by his fellow teammates and the surprisingly sparse crowd. I myself struggle to watch the Whitecaps at the best of times due to the lackluster football they play but Davies got me geed up. His talent is so rare to see in these parts that I will continue watching the team until his final game in Vancouver in November. What then is another story for another day.
Davies has the toolkit to go on and become a star in world football, mainly because today’s game is built on speed and Davies has it in abundance. The true test will be mental and tactical. The youngster, as brilliant as he is, has much to learn. His positional play is not the greatest and there were times when his team didn’t have the ball that he could be seen standing still or walking. Elite footballers are constantly moving, probing the pitch to determine their next action. Football intelligence is as imperative as supreme physical ability. Davies can also do more to bring his teammates into the game by spraying the ball in different areas of the pitch rather than his predictably direct approach - this he will learn when he plays stronger opposition. His defensive ability is poor as the jockeying angles he takes up are not conducive to mitigating the potency of opposition attacks. With the expectation that Davies will begin his European adventure in a full-back position, this will have to be improved.
Nonetheless, Alphonso Davies is a generational talent who, if adaptive, will grow into the European game. His grounding at the Whitecaps has been motherly rather than disciplined and productive therefore when he arrives in Germany, that transition will take time to bear fruit. Heck, his transfer out of the organisation was met with celebration by fans and colleagues alike, something I’ve never seen in football before but an honorable gesture nonetheless. He bears immense physical attributes for the MLS but European football is a different kettle. Coming up against the greatest players in the world will be intimidating however, his pace will allow for mistakes to be covered up at times; other times he will be left exposed and expected to absorb the criticism that accompanies sporadic failures.
Going to Germany is a great move for the boy wonder as the structure around Munich historically has bred success. Being able to learn from experienced stalwarts such as Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery will be invaluable while evolving with youthful brilliance such as Joshua Kimmich will provide comfort and stability.
Good luck Alphonso, Vancouver and the MLS will miss you but there are bigger and better days ahead.