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Three days before the Athletic reported that Alphonso Davies, the 17-year old Vancouver Whitecaps sensation, is the subject of an MLS-record $12 million transfer offer by mighty Bayern Munich, Davies sat down with Yahoo Sports for a story scheduled to run this week.
The news of Davies’ potential departure changed the angle slightly. But Davies’ words, combined with comments from Vancouver coach Carl Robinson, provide a few clues about how any deal could go down.
Davies was held out of Saturday’s 2-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders, and while the Whitecaps have stayed mum about his status, Germany’s Bild reported Sunday than an agreement between the teams is expected.
How would it actually work, though? Under FIFA rules, Davies wouldn’t be able play for Bayern until he turns 18 on Nov. 2. Even then, it would probably take the Canadian international time to break into one of the deepest and most talented lineups in the world. Last week, Davies was adamant that playing time will be a major consideration whenever or wherever he goes.
“If the opportunity comes, I think as a developing young player I want to go somewhere where they’ll play me in their first team,” Davies told Yahoo. “If a club buys you, you want to play for that club. You don’t want to be going on loan here or there.”
Davies has clearly noticed a trend. Other promising MLSers who have left for marquee European destinations in recent years have been farmed out in short order. DeAndre Yedlin, sold by Seattle to Tottenham in 2014, spent his first full season in England with Sunderland and made just one appearance for Spurs before being flipped to Newcastle.
Matt Miazga, who went to Chelsea from the New York Red Bulls in 2016, played the last two seasons on loan to Dutch club Vitesse. And just this month, ex-Sporting Kansas City defender Erik Palmer-Brown moved to NAC Breda, another Eredivisie side. It was his second loan since joining English champion Manchester City in January.
Still, Davies will leave. The Whitecaps have made clear that they will not stand in his way, even though he’s been the club’s best player this season. Robinson believes Davies is ready to move to Europe right now.
“How can I say to a player that has the opportunity to play at the top level that you can’t do it?” Robinson said. “It just goes against everything that is right about development of players. I think Fonzie is at a stage of his career that when he’s surrounded by better players, he’ll become a better player.”
He doesn’t mean just in training, either. “He’s played first-team football for me for two years,” added Robinson, who gave Davies his MLS debut at 15. “Probably the last thing he needs is to go and not play first-team football somewhere else, because I think it will affect his development.”
So, lets break this down: If both Davies and his manager agree that he needs to continue to play first-team soccer, and if Davies doesn’t want to go on loan, could it be that Bayern actually has him in their immediate plans? It’s possible.
North American teenagers are all the rage in the Bundesliga these days. U.S. national team headliner Christian Pulisic has been a starter with Borussia Dortmund, Munich’s chief rival, since he was 17. At 19, Weston McKennie helped Schalke to a runner-up finish last season. Another American, 18-year-old Josh Sargent is expected to compete for minutes with Werder Bremen when the new campaign kicks off next month.
It’s easy to picture Davies joining them. He’s dominated MLS games at times this season. More impressive has been his consistency, which he struggled with towards the end of last year, his first as a full-time pro. Davies was actually sent back to the Whitecaps residency team at the end of 2017, just months after winning the Golden Boot as the top scorer at the CONCACAF Gold Cup. “He played so many minutes at the beginning of the year, he wasn’t able to cope with it emotionally or physically,” Robinson said.
By all accounts, Davies has matured on and off the field in the months since. He’s added muscle to his rangy frame which, combined with his silky touch, has helped him better hold off defenders, like he did before scoring this stunner against D.C. United July 14.
“His football has gone through the roof,” Robinson said. “He’s now doing things on a regular basis that I only saw glimpses of before.”
Yet as a perennial Champions League contender, Bayern is a clear step up from Bremen, Dortmund or Schalke. If Davies isn’t quite ready to walk into their all-world squad, there’s another option that wouldn’t involve him leaving Vancouver, at least not right away. When Yedlin was sold to Tottenham in the summer of 2014, he was allowed to remain with the Sounders until the end of that year. Robinson floated a similar possibility with Davies before he was even asked.
“If there’s an opportunity to take him on loan again, we’d love to do that,” he said. “If there’s not because he’s part of the first team’s plans, that’s great. The kid is on an upward spiral. He needs to continue to go that way.”
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