bundesliga

Alphonso Davies: A landmark season at Bayern Munich

From his first major injury and first straight red card through to winning a third Bundesliga title, Alphonso Davies' second full season at Bayern Munich has been quite the emotional rollercoaster - just the latest challenge he has overcome on his way to the very top of the game.

In 2019/20, the Canada international raised the bar when it comes to breaking through as a professional. He took advantage of the opportunity presented via injuries to teammates to establish himself in the Bayern first team, helping the side win an unprecedented sextuple and earning himself a spot in the FIFA FIFPro World  11 alongside Robert Lewandowski and Joshua Kimmich for 2020 along the way.

Having missed only one of 35 games under head coach Hansi Flick last term, it appeared the only way was up for Davies; however, instead things seemed to start going in the opposite direction.

Watch: Davies - Bayern's two-world star

The left-back was an unused substitute against Schalke on Matchday 1 on 2020/21 and only came off the bench in the last minute against Bielefeld on Matchday 4. Of the team's first seven competitive games this season, Davies only started three. Lucas Hernandez, by contrast, was named in the first XI for six of those. Had Davies slipped down the pecking order?

Flick moved to allay any such fears at the time, saying: "For a young player like Alphonso Davies, it's not easy due to the sheer number of games last season and the short pre-season.

"We've deliberately given him the time to recharge - mentally and physically - and that's what he's been doing."

Be that as it may, you're only as good as your last match in professional sport, and seeing a rival put in strong performances at left-back must have been hard to watch. A trying situation was made even harder still when Davies suffered the first serious injury of his professional career in October.

Hansi Flick (r.) has relied heavily on Davies to implement his pressing strategy at Bayern. - imago images

Just 53 seconds into the game at home to Eintracht Frankfurt, Davies caught his studs in the turf and was forced off the pitch with an ankle ligament injury.

He called the setback "just a bump in the road" with his characteristic positive outlook, yet by the turn of the year Davies had managed just 363 minutes across six Bundesliga outings. For an ambitious player keen to kick on to the next level, the season was hardly going to plan.

The Bayern No.19 made his return to action after seven weeks on the sidelines in the UEFA Champions League against Lokomotiv Moscow on 9 December.

Come the final whistle, Flick could not hide his delight: "He can be very pleased with his comeback. Obviously we're happy too, because you could see he has a quality that we've been missing a bit. We're happy that he's back."

Davies hobbled off the pitch in the third minute against Eintracht Frankfurt on Matchday 5. - CHRISTOF STACHE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

That was no mere platitude. Only Thomas Müller has won more duels (363) for Bayern in the Bundesliga than Davies (259) this season, while the youngster is fourth in the team for sprints made (619) - despite having only played in 21 of 32 league outings so far.

Moreover, Bayern's style of play under Flick demands that they play a very high defensive line, pushed close to the halfway line to squeeze the opponents in their own half and, ideally, force them into mistakes that can be turned into goals.

The danger with such a strategy is that it leaves you vulnerable to counter-attacks and long balls over the top into the big space between the defence and goalkeeper. Davies' electric pace is therefore crucial to that.

He has registered the third-fastest speed in the Bundesliga this season at 22.35mph (35.97 km/h), making him considerably quicker than the other defensive regulars at Bayern: Jerome Boateng (21.36 mph / 34.39 km/h), Niklas Süle (21.15 mph / 34.05 km/h), Hernandez (20.82 mph / 33.52 km/h), David Alaba (20.48 mph / 32.96 km/h) and Benjamin Pavard (20.36 mph / 32.78 km/h).

As impressive as that looks - he is almost one mile per hour faster than his closest rival - it is only when you convert that into real-world metrics that you really get an idea of why the Canadian is so vital to Flick.

Over the course of a 10-second sprint, for example, Davies would finish five metres ahead of Boateng. That could well be the difference between catching a striker and preventing a goal or not.

Once he returned to full fitness, Davies regained his place in the Bayern starting line-up but the up-and-down nature of his season continued in March. He was shown a red card in the 12th minute at home to VfB Stuttgart on Matchday 26 - a game Bayern still managed to win 4-0 – but just four days later he became the first footballer selected as an ambassador for the United Nations refugee charity, UNHCR, having himself started life in a refugee camp in Ghana.

"I'm honoured to become a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR and to speak up for refugees everywhere," he said. "I've come a long way from the refugee camp where I was born and I've worked hard to get where I am today. But I'll never forget where I started."

His journey serves as an inspiration for countless people around the globe. And after picking up his third Bundesliga title at the end of his most difficult season as a professional, Davies' ability to overcome adversity looks set to lead him ever onwards and upwards.