Bayern Bound: What Alphonso Davies' Munich move means for him and the Whitecaps
At just 17 years of age, Alphonso Davies had already become the face of a franchise and the personification of a country's soccer dreams.
But now, after just two and half years in Vancouver, Canada's soccer star is bound for Bayern Munich, transferred to the German giants in a sale worth up to a reported $ 20 million, the largest in Major League Soccer history.
It's a career-defining move for the player, one that sets him up for soccer superstardom and one that leaves his soon-to-be former team with coffers full of cash but also a roster to overhaul amid a disappointing season.
Alphonso Davies celebrates his first MLS goal with his teammates, a game-winner in the Whitecaps' 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact in their 2018 season-opener. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press )
'It's breaking my heart'
In a perfect world, Davies would stay in Vancouver and grow his skills while leading the Whitecaps to MLS glory.
But, the big budget business of international soccer, coupled with the deep pockets of mega-teams like Bayern, meant fans knew that losing their best player was an inevitability.
"I think it was treated as a done deal earlier that he was going to be gone by the end of the season," said Peter Czimmerman, the vice president of Whitecaps support group the Southsiders.
"He's been a star in the making since he joined the Caps."
Bayern Munich is among the world's biggest and most successful club teams. The side is a regular contender for the UEFA Champions League — the world's most prestigious club competition — and boasts a roster loaded with international stars including Dutchmen Arjen Robben, Colombian James Rodriguez and Frenchman Franck Ribéry.
"This move is going to be really good for him," said Czimmerman. "It's amazing, but it's breaking my heart"
Big budget overhaul?
The transfer will fill club coffers, in theory allowing it to splurge on a much-needed roster overhaul.
Davies' sale comes amid a floundering few weeks for the Whitecaps, with the team losing five of its last six games , including its last three in a row, while scoring just four times over those half dozen matches. The team sits below the playoff cut with nearly two-thirds of the season already over.
Alphonso Davies runs through a drill ahead of a 2016 match against Sporting Kansas City. (Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press)
"Him being gone, I wish that was our biggest problem right now."
A big-money off-season signing could soften the blow of losing the team's star attraction, while also giving fans a reason to return to BC Place next season.
"It would be giving us a good two or three years while we can wait for the next Alphonso Davies to come up the ranks," said Czimmerman of a potential blockbuster signing.
For the outgoing Davies, it's a chance to step onto a stage few Canadian players have graced.
Calgary-born Owen Hargreaves also signed with Bayern Munich as a teenager, and later rose through the club ranks and went on to a decorated career, appearing in a World Cup (for England), winning several major titles and later starring for English powerhouse Manchester United.
But that opportunity is also no guarantee of success.
A new country, culture and level of competition have historically proven to be too much for even some of soccer's brightest young prospects.
Alphonso Davies celebrates his goal against the New York Red Bulls during first half of a 2017 CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final. (Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press)
At the age of 14, Freddy Adu was hailed as the saviour of American soccer.
He joined the MLS in 2004 and made the jump to Europe at 18 years of age with Portuguese side Benfica. Adu, now 29, is back in North America but playing in a second-tier league on what is now his 13th team in eight different countries.
More optimistically, Davies could soon line up against the U.S.'s current young soccer saviour, 19-year-old midfielder Christian Pulisic. The American has established himself as a regular presence on both the USA national team and in the German league as a regular starter for Bayern rival Borussia Dortmund.
Dortmund's Christian Pulisic is an emerging American star who competes in the German Bundesliga. (Martin Meissner / The Associated Press)
Those close to him say Davies is destined to be different.
"I know he'll be fine, because he's got a great head on his shoulders and for being 17 years old, he's taken everything in stride and been so modest," said Whitecaps midfielder Russell Teibert.
Under FIFA regulations, Davies isn't eligible to play for Bayern until his 18th birthday Nov. 2.
Meaning Davies will finish out the season with the Whitecaps and move on to Munich in the fall.
"He's young. He's bright and he's a real talent," said Teibert.
"Everyone wants to see what he's going to do on the field next."
Teenager Alphonso Davies could be Canada's first men's soccer superstar. Ian Hanomansing sat down with Davies to talk about what's ahead. 9:20