Bayern Munich teenager Alphonso Davies has revealed he still finds in surreal to be playing in a team alongside the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Philippe Coutinho, saying he “can’t believe they’re my teammates”.
The 19-year-old, who arrived at Bayern from the Vancouver Whitecaps in January 2019, had to bide his time for first-team opportunities initially, but injuries to a number of senior players this season opened the door for the left-sided specialist to get his chance.
And he has grabbed it with both hands, making 14 appearances and 10 starts in the Bundesliga already in 2019/20, providing a goal and an assist as the record champions look to defend their league crown.
Yet despite only nine members of Bayern’s 31-man first-team squad having played more Bundesliga minutes than him this season, the Canadian admits he still has to pinch himself at times.
“I’m playing with all these superstars and I still say ‘wow’,” he told the Edmonton Oilers podcast during the winter break on a trip back to his homeland.
“I walk in the locker room and I shake Lewandowski’s hand, Coutinho’s hand, Thiago’s hand, and [David] Alaba’s. I can’t believe these people are my teammates. I grew up watching these guys, so it’s truly amazing.”
Equally amazing are Davies’ displays for the record German champions. Stepping into the shoes of a left-back as accomplished as Alaba – who has moved inside to centre-back – must have been a daunting prospect, but his extended run in the side is testament to the quality of his performances.
"I’m currently very satisfied with the position Alphonso has,” head coach Hansi Flick said in December. “He’s done very well defensively. His pace makes him an asset for us at the back. He’s also very robust against the ball. I really like his development."
Sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic has been similarly impressed: “We signed Alphonso Davies a year ago because we saw him as one of the best players of his generation. We're delighted that this is now being confirmed with every game he plays.”
Davies himself attributes the speed with which he has settled in part to the ease of communication at the club, with English the primary language among the players:
“People speak different languages: we have French, Spanish, German and Portuguese, but in the locker room the main language is English. Most people know some English. When I first moved there I didn’t think I was going to get by so easily, but people told me they all know English, so we communicate in English. Obviously they want me to learn German, but in the locker room it’s all English.”
He cited the fact that he left his family home at an early age as another factor in his ability to settle in unfamiliar surroundings. “The first time I left home, I was 14 when I went to Vancouver,” he recalled.
“It was only a one-hour flight away [from Edmonton] but I still got homesick. The first week was good but as time went on I got homesick. That prepared me to go to Germany. When I got there I was used to being away from home. Obviously I’ve had to adapt to the language and the culture, but I think me moving to Vancouver at a young age prepared me for the big jump [to Munich].”
And having come this far, the Bayern No.19 is determined to keep pushing on. “Your hunger gets you there [to the top],” he said. “When I was younger I saw the top players and I wanted it to be me. Once I made it at Vancouver I realised I could go further if I kept working hard. It doesn’t stop, I want more. I want to win the Champions League one day, I want to win all the trophies. It’s the hunger that keeps pushing me.”