Jamal Musiala has been shortlisted for the Kopa Trophy as the best U21 player in the world. After back-to-back third-placed finishes in 2021 and 2022, bundesliga.com explains why it should be a case of third time lucky for the Bayern Munich and Germany sensation...
The 20-year-old has enjoyed a record-breaking start to his career, lighting up the domestic, European and international scene, but hit new heights across the 2022/23 campaign.
Musiala's 12th and final Bundesliga goal of the season was one of the enduring images of the most memorable title races in living memory.
Within four minutes of entering the fold for Noussair Mazraoui, he took receipt of the ball on the edge of the area, spun away from Cologne's Eric Martel and drove a shot with unerring accuracy into the far bottom corner.
Bayern, having started the day two points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund - who could only draw at home to Mainz - were champions for the 11th year in a row. Not for the first time, Musiala was the toast of Munich.
Watch: All Jamal Musiala's Bundesliga goals and assists in 2022/23
Time and again in 2022/23, Musiala was Bayern's get-out-of-jail-free card. No longer the ace of spades from the bench, he thrived in the starting line-up, contributing some 22 goals, putting him second to Randal Kolo Muani for combined goals and assists across the campaign. Without his game-changing smarts, Bayern could have been as many as 15 points worse off.
"Jamal understands things even I don't see," admitted Thomas Müller, whose boots Musiala is eventually expected to fill as the fulcrum of the Bayern supply line. "He's just magic!"
Watch: Sit back and enjoy some Musiala magic
The signs were already there in Bayern's season-opening Supercup win over RB Leipzig, in which Musiala broke the deadlock and set up a goal for Benjamin Pavard in a cloud of star dust. His final act against Cologne simply bookended an exceptional year in his accelerated development.
"The goal and the whole move was what we expect from him," Bayern head coach Thomas Tuchel said of Musiala's title-clinching effort in Cologne. "He showed that consistently in the first half of the season, but suffered somewhat more recently in an unstable team. It was amazing for him and for all of us."
Despite single-handedly winning Bayern their 32nd Bundesliga title, and leading the way for combined goals and assists among U20 players across Europe's top five leagues per UEFA coefficient, Musiala proved himself to be so much more than a polished taker and maker of chances.
With the poise, control and quick feet of Lionel Messi, he was among the most active dribblers and most pressed players across Europe's top five leagues in 2022/23. Furthermore, he was a marginal second to Leroy Sane for most touches among Bayern attackers, highlighting his standing as their go-to guy in the final third.
Jude Bellingham is a fellow frontrunner for the 2023 Kopa Trophy, after taking Dortmund to the brink of the 2022/23 Bundesliga title with a catalogue of commanding performances. The 19-year-old won a league-high 482 challenges, whilst chipping in with eight goals and four assists - but was he really the best-performing player under the age of 21, the key criterion in determining the winner of the annual Kopa Trophy?
Just as so many moments of Musiala magic kept Bayern in the hunt and ultimately denied Bellingham's BVB top Bundesliga honours, Mr. Twinkle Toes should arguably beat his close friend and former England youth international teammate to the punch.
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