Alphonso Davies named Canadian men’s player of the year


Canada's Alphonso Davies. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

What a year it’s been for Alphonso Davies.

The former Vancouver Whitecaps star made headlines over the summer when he signed with German outfit Bayern Munich as part of a transfer deal that could surpass $20 million when all is said and done.

Davies finished out the Major League Soccer season with the Whitecaps and is currently training with Bayern. He will be eligible to play for the Bavarian club in January.

On Wednesday, Davies’ dream year continued when Canada Soccer announced him as the winner of the Canadian men’s player of the year award for 2018. Only 18 years old, Davies is the youngest ever winner of the men’s honour. He also ends the streak of Besiktas star Atiba Hutchinson, who took home the award in each of the last four years.

Hutchinson finished second behind Davies, and Toronto midfielder Jonathan Osorio was third in voting by Canadian media and coaches.

Davies was one of the few bright spots for a Whitecaps side that failed to make the playoffs this year, as the Edmonton native scored eight goals and tallied 11 assists in 31 regular season games.

Internationally, Davies played in three matches for Canada in 2018, recording four assists in a trio of Concacaf Nations League qualifiers.

Canadian players don’t get sold for the kind of money that Davies went for, never mind teenagers who have spent their entire careers in MLS – and they certainly don’t get picked up by Bayern, one of the biggest clubs in the world. But Davies is by all accounts the real deal.

What makes him so special – apart from his age – is the type of player he is, his player profile. Canadian soccer has a history of producing sturdy goalkeepers (Craig Forrest and Lars Hirschfield), stoic defenders (Jason de Vos and Kevin McKenna) and solid midfielders (Julian de Guzman and Hutchinson). It doesn’t have a track record of churning out dynamic goal scorers, and technically gifted attackers. Developing creative players who are legitimate game breakers has never been Canada’s strong suit.

Davies is a notable exception. For someone so young, he demonstrates a lot of composure and maturity. He’s also a fleet-footed attacker, using his pace and skill on the ball to take on defenders one-on-one, and create a bit of magic with his probing runs. Solid in possession, the youngster combines creativity, mobility and strength into a tantalizing package.

He is one of the most exciting prospects this country has ever produced, offering genuine hope to a long-suffering national men’s team program that will try to make a splash at the 2026 FIFA World Cup that will see games played on Canadian soil.

His personal story is especially inspiring.

Davies was born in a refugee camp in Ghana after his Liberian parents fled the country to avoid its civil war. When Davies was five, he and his family emigrated to Canada and eventually settled in Edmonton. It was there where Davies’ passion for soccer blossomed, playing in "Free Footie," a league for disadvantaged kids, and later for local youth clubs. The Whitecaps eventually took notice of Davies and signed him to their youth residency program as a 14-year-old.

He turned out for the Whitecaps farm club in the lower-tier United Soccer League, and signed a pro contract with the senior team in 2016. At 15, Davies became the second-youngest player to play in in MLS. Last summer, after finally receiving his citizenship, Davies debuted for the national team in a friendly in Montreal, and then scored three goals at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, helping Canada reach the quarterfinals.

"He’s probably the most exciting kid — he’s still a kid — that I’ve ever played with and seen with my own eyes. By far he’s the most technically gifted, humble, modest young man that I think is going to go from strength to strength," Canadian national midfielder Scott Arfield said at the time.

Bayern Munich is one of the most successful clubs in the world, having won 28 German League titles and the UEFA Champions League on five occasions. Some of the sport’s all-time greats have played for the Bavarian outfit at one time or another, including Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller. They have routinely spent transfer fees of over $25 million on players such as Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Mario Gotze.

Bayern doesn’t spend big money on a player unless it thinks it’s going to get a return on its investment. The fact Bayern Munich is willing to spend this kind of money tells you all you need to know about Davies, and how highly they rate him.

The Canadian men’s player of the year award was first handed out in 1993, with the inaugural award going to Alex Bunbury. Other winners over the years have included Dwayne De Rosario, Paul Stalteri, de Vos, Forrest and de Guzman.

Earlier this week, Christine Sinclair was named the women’s award winner on Wednesday, while Derek Cornelius and Jordyn Huitema won the Canadian Youth International Players of the Year honours.

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