As Bayern Munich sensation Alphonso Davies prepares for his first Champions League final, Stats Perform News revisits an interview with his former boss Carl Robinson.
Alphonso Davies has produced an incredible success story and can become a Bayern Munich legend, according to his former head coach Carl Robinson.
Davies has established himself as one of the most exciting players in European football since joining Bundesliga champions Bayern from MLS outfit Vancouver Whitecaps in 2018.
The 19-year-old speedster – who capped a fine domestic campaign with the 2019-20 Bundesliga Rookie of the Year award – has been a revelation on the left side of Bayern's defence, helping them to an eighth consecutive league crown and DFB-Pokal success as the Bavarian giants stand on the cusp of a treble heading into Sunday's Champions League final against Paris Saint-Germain.
Davies also recorded a top speed of 36.51 kilometres per hour in Bayern's 1-0 over Werder Bremen in June, the fastest of any Bundesliga player since the data started being collected in 2013-14, while he is now set to become the first Canada international to play in a Champions League final as Bayern eye their first European crown since 2013.
The success of Davies, however, comes as no surprise to Welsh coach Robinson, who handed him his debut as a 15-year-old for the Whitecaps in MLS.
Robinson knows Davies better than most and while he is on the path to greatness, the ex-Wolves midfielder insisted there is still plenty of room for improvement.
"I do," Robinson – now coach of A-League side Newcastle Jets – told Stats Perform News when asked if he thinks Davies can become a Bayern legend. "I know his dream is maybe one day to play in England, like it is for a lot of North American players, South American players, Australasian players. Going to play in Europe is the cream of the crop. That won't surprise me at some stage if that comes, but that will only be based upon his development and continuation.
"But one of my coaches had said to him, there was a clip where they saw him getting back on Mason Mount from 30 yards [in the Champions League against Chelsea]. Mount was breaking and Alphonso managed to get himself back into that area and stop the danger. Everyone was raving about how quick he is, 'He's not human, He's so quick.'
"It's interesting that one of my coaches, Pa-Modou Kah, who is now the manager of Pacific FC in the CPL and a very talented coach, turns around and says, 'Alphonso, you were in the wrong starting position.'
"So, the way he gets taught is very important. He is scary in relation to his physical attributes but the detail in it was he was in the wrong starting position. Can you imagine if he plays against a player like him, who is as quick as him, speed of thought is quicker and more experienced? He's not getting back and it will be 1-0. The teaching point for him there was he's had an excellent season, so many attributes you can build on and they're already talking about him being a €50million, €60million player, but there's still areas of his game that he needs to improve.
"What I've learned over my career, the top players need to be coached. If you don't coach them, they complain and moan. They want to be taught. That's why the best managers in the world and Premier League – the [Jose] Mourinhos, [Mauricio] Pochettinos, [Jurgen] Klopps and [Pep] Guardiolas – they are just so demanding of their players and you can see them getting frustrated sometimes with their top players because they need to be coached and you need to show them. If you do that, they progress.
"Football is short. The lifespan of a footballer is very, very small. Your life actually starts when you retire. So, the window gets shorter every year but it's important you learn. Lots of good things but also areas to improve if he's to play at that level year in, year out, which I firmly believe he will. But when he comes up against a Marcus Rashford, he needs to be in the right position or he probably won't get back in time."
Rewind to July 2016 and Robinson – coach of the Whitecaps at the time – introduced Davies to MLS football, just one day after signing a league contract with the club.
Davies came off the bench against Orlando City and became the second-youngest player to take the field in MLS at 15 years, 257 days, behind Freddy Adu (14 years, 306 days).
"With football, when there's success stories – and they are refreshing when there's young success stories – what you tend to find is people come out the woodwork and every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to take credit for a successful story," Robinson added of Davies, who was instrumental in the 8-2 quarter-final humiliation of Barcelona before Bayern accounted for Lyon in Wednesday's semi-final.
"When there's a negative or disappointing story, the same people that want to shout from the rooftops are nowhere to be seen. Alphonso Davies is an unbelievably successful story. It's due to one; himself – because he is a very, very talented player. Yes, I gave him his first opportunity in football. I threw him in as a 15-year-old kid. So, the easy thing for me to do is say, 'Yeah, I gave him a chance, I played him, blah, blah, blah.'
"But prior to me making the decision to give him a chance, a lot of work went on behind the scenes. My coaching staff in Vancouver – Gordon Forrest, Martyn Pert – they were key to that. They had identified him, watched him, reviewed him and gave me an insight into exactly what he was. So, when I gave him a chance, there had already been done a lot of work behind the scenes.
"He got the chance and did well. A young player does well and they usually tend to play well for two or three games then have a little bit of a blip and drop. Then you have to protect them. That's where my experiences kicked in. I was a very good player, I wasn't a top player. There are top players and world-class players, I was a very good player. I knew what I needed to get to that level and stay at that level. That's the next key.
"I was able to support him on his journey. It was his journey, no one else's journey. I kept quiet along the way for the benefit of him. It was important then that his team-mates – Kei Kamara, Kendall Waston and experienced players like that – were supportive with him. He had reference points and coaches that were his go-to, which was very important, his mum and dad, a very supportive family network.
"It's a great success story for him. I'm really pleased. I'm not surprised one bit. Yes, I gave him his debut and I'm really proud that I did do that because back then, I knew what I saw and I gave him that chance. That's what leads me into this next chapter of how can I judge a player when I don't give them a chance? Can you imagine if I didn't make the decision to throw on Alphonso because there were people that said he wasn't ready to play and he wasn't ready to step into first-team football?
"We played Crystal Palace in a friendly game at BC Place and I was told he wasn't ready, but I listened to my staff and coaches key to me, and I believed them and took the chance... Alphonso deserves all the credit.
"He is a fantastic, talented young boy. Now it's about consistency because after having a very good year at left-back, which was key for his development, then he has to do it next year and the year after. Then he can be put into the category of the Gareth Bales, Ashley Coles, the top players like that all over the world. That will be his next challenge, but I firmly believe he can do it because he's a good kid."