Three Canadians who blazed a Bundesliga path for Alphonso Davies

Sportsnet's Donnovan Bennett sits down with Canadian soccer phenom Alphonso Davies to share the Bayern Munich wing's incredible journey from a refugee camp to the Bundesliga.

If all goes to plan, Canadian teenager Alphonso Davies will make his Bundesliga debut on Friday when Bayern Munich visits Hoffenheim.

Turning out for one of the biggest clubs in the world is a huge step in the career development of this Canadian soccer phenom. Davies has a bright future ahead of him, and he has the potential to inspire a new generation of young soccer prospects in Canada if he is successful at Bayern.

Of course, he’s not the first player from Canada to ply his trade in Germany.

The list of Canadians to have featured in the Bundesliga includes Rob Friend (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Daniel Imhof (VfL Bochum), Simeon Jackson (Eintracht Braunschweig), Marcel de Jong (FC Augsburg) and Olivier Occean (Eintracht Frankfurt).

Calgary-born Owen Hargreaves, who shunned Canada to represent England in international competition (earning 42 caps for the Three Lions), was a star midfielder for Bayern Munich, winning four Bundesliga titles and the UEFA Champions League during his seven seasons with the Bavarian club.

Here’s a look at three of the top Canadians who went before Davies in the Bundesliga, blazing a path for the teenager to follow.

Paul Stalteri

After cutting his teeth with hometown club Toronto Lynx in the old A League, Stalteri went to Germany where he joined Werder Bremen and became the first Canadian to play in the Bundesliga on Aug. 12, 2000, scoring in his debut in a 3-1 win over Energie Cottbus.

“A dream come true,” Stalteri said at the time. “I knew I would always have a chance eventually and I knew this year my chance would come; I just didn’t know it would come in the first game of the season!”

Stalteri was a solid wingback and midfielder during his career, which included earning 84 caps for Canada (still the second-most in the team’s history). He was a regular starter during his five seasons with Bremen, and he played a pivotal role in helping the team win “the Double” – Bundesliga title and German Cup – in 2003-04.

After a stint with Tottenham and Fulham in the Premier league, Stalteri returned to the Bundesliga for two seasons with Borussia Mönchengladbach before retiring in 2011. Stalteri was inducted into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame in 2017.

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Kevin McKenna

After playing youth soccer in Calgary, McKenna crossed the Atlantic Ocean in pursuit of his dream of playing professional soccer and landed with Energie Cottbus.

McKenna faced off against Stalteri (playing for Werder Bremen at the time) on the opening day of the 2000-01 season, as they simultaneously became the first Canadians to appear in the German top-flight.

Opportunities were few and far between for the central defender at Cottbus, making only a handful of appearances before joining Scottish club Hearts in 2001.

McKenna returned to Energie Cottbus in 2005 and was named team captain as he helped the club win promotion back into the Bundesliga for the 2006-07 season. He was on the move again in the summer of 2007 when he signed with FC Koln, dropping down to the German second division, but helped the team win promotion to the Bundesliga straight away.

At the same time, McKenna became a regular starter for Canada, scoring 11 goals in 63 appearances for his country, before retiring in 2014.

Julian de Guzman

After coming through Olympique Marseille’s youth system in France, De Guzman travelled to Germany where he signed with second-division outfit FC Saarbrücken. The midfielder’s outstanding form didn’t go unnoticed, as Bundesliga side Hannover signed him in 2002.

De Guzman enjoyed a successful three-year tenure at Hannover, before making another move, this time to Spain where he joined Deportivo La Coruna. It was in La Liga where he shot to fame as one of the best holding midfielders in Spain’s first division. He also established himself as one of Canada’s best-ever players – he still holds the record for most caps with 89.

But his time at Hannover set him up for the incredible success he enjoyed later on, as the Bundesliga offered him a chance to play top-class soccer for the first time in his career. De Guzman retired in 2016 and currently serves as the general manager of the Ottawa Fury.

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