British Columbia

Davies set to depart Whitecaps but faces battle to crack elite Bayern lineup

The Canadian teen star is set to join German giants Bayern Munich, but will have to fight for his place in a star-studded lineup.

Davies joins German giants amid early-season slump, but could see playing time sooner than first thought

Alphonso Davies laughs during a news conference on July 26, 2018, a day after his transfer to Bayern Munich was announced. (Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press)

After parts of three seasons, 81 senior team appearances and at least 10 goals scored, Alphonso Davies' Vancouver Whitecaps career will draw to a close on Sunday afternoon.

Davies, 17, will soon be bound for Bayern Munich, one of Europe's elite clubs, after a record summer transfer that will see him join the German giants in a move that could amount to more than $22 million US.

Davies combination of speed, ball control and potential for growth drew the eye of Whitecaps fans as well as of top European scouts.

"Not only is this kid fast, and  humble, and eager for the ball, he's also very versatile which will be huge for him," said Artikas Keschvari a Vancouver-based Bayern fan who supports both teams.

"It was a great signing,"  Keschvari said. "Unbelievable."

Davies, seen posing in a Bayern Munich jersey after his summer transfer was finalized, will join the German team in January. (Bayern Munich / Twitter)

In Vancouver, Davies' name was a regular one on the team sheet, but the teen will face much tougher competition for playing time at Bayern, where expectations are high even as the team endures an early-season slump.

Europe's Elite

In Bayern, Davies joins one of Europe's elite teams.

The club has won 28 German league titles, more than any other team, including the last six titles in a row.

Only two clubs have appeared in the final of the Champions League, Europe's premier continental club competition, more than Bayern has, with the Germans winning the prestigious event five times, most recently in 2013.

Its current roster reads as a miniature who's-who of international soccer: prolific Polish goal scorer Robert Lewandowski, veteran German international Thomas Muller and Colombian playmaking attacker James Rodriguez are just some of the stars on Bayern's roster.

But that lineup is also aging rapidly, and new manager Niko Kovac has so far struggled to find a consistent, winning lineup combination.

"It is a crisis in Bayern's terms," said Mark Lovell, a soccer journalist who covers the team for ESPN. "They're just not playing very well."

Bayern Munich's veteran star wingers Franck Ribery, left, and Arjen Robben, right, have played for the club since 2009 and 2007 respectively. (Carmen Jaspersen / The Associated Press)

The team has won just one of its last four league games, and entered the weekend sitting in fourth place in the league standings.

"They're slow and ponderous, they need the pace and dynamism that we see from Alphonso Davies," said Lovell. "They definitely need someone like [him] to breathe new life into their season."

Cracking the lineup

To make an impact, Davies will need playing time, which means taking an established veteran off the team sheet to put his name on it.

Typically deployed as a wide attacking midfielder, he'll have to unseat one of Dutchman Arjen Robben and France's Franck Ribery, two of the squad's longest-standing and most internationally-seasoned members who both play in the wide attacking role.

But they are also among the oldest of the team's aging core: Robben is 34, and Ribery is 35.

"Both those players are brilliant players on their day, but their best days may be behind them," said Lovell.

While the opportunity is there, Bayern isn't in the business of handing regular roles based on reputation alone.

Bayern midfielder Renato Sanches, left, fights for the ball during a 2018 Champions League group match. The Portuguese teen was a star signing for the German club in the summer of 2016. (The Associated Press / Armando Franca)

The team signed Portuguese midfielder Renato Sanches as an 18-year-old after a glowing performance for his native Portugal at the 2016 UEFA European Cup.

Amid high expectations, Sanches struggled to perform amid limited playing time and was shipped out on loan for a season.

"That is the benchmark for Alphonso Davies. Can he really break through?"

Lovell added indications are that Davies has the temperament and skill to succeed at Bayern,, but added nothing is for sure.

He'll get his shot once he joins the team in January.

"He's going to have to be exceptional," Lovell said. "I think we're all looking forward to seeing how he can do."

Teenager Alphonso Davies could be Canada's 1st men's soccer superstar

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Matthew Black


Matthew Black is a B.C.-based writer, producer and reporter. He writes mostly about sports and has worked for CBC in Toronto and Vancouver as well as abroad in London.