Five trophies with Bayern Munich. And now a second Canadian Men’s Player of the Year award in three years.
Alphonso Davies, at 20 already Canada’s most famous soccer export, has been on a roll in 2020.
It took torn ankle ligaments to slow down the pacey fullback dubbed the Bayern Road Runner by teammate Thomas Mueller, after the lightning-quick cartoon character. But Davies, who was sidelined in late October in Bayern’s 5-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt, is back.
And he may be even better.
“The road to recovery was tough … but I knew I had to do it, I had to fight,” he told reporters Thursday. “I couldn’t be disappointed, I couldn’t be sad. I just had to get up and keep the smile on my face and get back.
“Every day working out, I think I got a little big bigger up top through the six weeks,” he added, pointing to his torso. “So that was a bonus as well.”
Davis has had plenty to smile about in 2020, earning worldwide acclaim while helping Bayern Munich fill its trophy case.
That success has earned him Canadian Men’s Player of the Year honours in a landslide. Canada Soccer, which will announce the women’s award winner on Friday, said Davies earned a record vote total from Canadian media and coaches, finishing just ahead of Christine Sinclair’s record set in 2012.
Davies also captured the award in 2018, then the youngest-ever winner of the men’s award at age 18. He was named Canada’s U-17 Player of the Year in 2016 and 2017.
“To see what Alphonso Davies has accomplished this year is awe-inspiring for the next generation of players,” Canada coach John Herdman said in a statement. “His achievements have raised the flag in our sport higher than anyone else in our lifetime on the men’s side of the game and he has helped put this country as a football country on the world map.”
Davies is looking forward to resuming play in Canadian colours next year, with World Cup qualifying and the Gold Cup on tap.
He says the current crop of Canadians including Jonathan David, Milan Borjan and Scott Arfield as well as members of the women’s team — he dates fellow Canadian Jordyn Huitema who plays for the Paris Saint-Germain women — have shown with their play in Europe that Canada is more than a hockey hotbed.
“When I was growing up, I felt like no one gave Canadians a chance. And now that they see we have quality in Canada … it’s amazing to see,” he said.
Davies has helped lead the way. Converted to fullback by Bayern, he has turned heads with his speed and ability to create attacks.
In June, Davies was named Bundesliga rookie of the year in voting by fans, clubs and the media. Kicker magazine, a German sports magazine that focuses mainly on football, included him in its Bundesliga team of the season.
This week ESPN ranked Davies as the second-best left fullback in the world, behind Liverpool’s Andy Robertson.
He was third in voting for the Golden Boy award won by Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland. The annual award, run by Italian newspaper Tuttosport, honours the best young player in Europe.
And he was shortlisted as a nominee for UEFA’s Team of the Year and Defender of the Year,
Davies shone on the biggest stage.
In an 8-2 beatdown of Barcelona in Champions League quarterfinal play in August, he set up Bayern’s fifth goal in the 63rd minute with a sensational run down the left flank. Davies beat three Barca players, befuddling Portuguese international Nelson Semedo before racing past several more defenders into the penalty box and sending a perfect pass to Joshua Kimmich to slot in from close range.
“That was unbelievable,” Kimmich said later. “Even I was a bit ashamed when I celebrated. He gets 99 per cent of the credit for the goal. I only had to get the ball over the line.”
Davies, who turned 20 on Nov. 2, also excelled in Bayern’s 3-0 win at Chelsea in the first leg of their round-of-16 Champions League tie in late February. Davies made a lightning run down the left flank and crossed to Robert Lewandowski for a tap-in in the 76th minute.
“Alphonso Davies’ parents fled Liberia in the civil war. He was born in a refugee camp in Ghana and moved to Canada when he was five. Here he is playing beautifully for Bayern at 19. What a wonderful story,” former England striker Gary Lineker, now an analyst with BBC Sport, posted on Twitter.
“Alphonso Davies is a world-class left back,” added former U.S. international Stuart Holden. “Top five in world soccer right now easy.”
The six-foot Davies, listed at 165 pounds by Bayern, set a Bundesliga speed record out in a 1-0 win at Werder Bremen that earned the Bavarian powerhouse an eighth straight league title. He was clocked at 36.51 km/h in the first half against Bremen, according to the Bundesliga. That erased the fastest recorded speed in league history (36.19 km/h by Dortmund’s Achraf Hakimi) since detailed data collection began in 2011.
In 2020, Davies has helped Bayern to the Champions League and Bundesliga titles, the DFB Cup, UEFA Super Cup and DFL-Supercup. He is the first Canadian male to lift the Champions League trophy.
Davies seems to keep it all in perspective, grateful for everything that has happened to him. He says he has help keeping him humble.
“I have a lot of people that are down to earth around me. I surround myself with good friends that help me keep my feet on the ground,” he said.
“Me winning all these trophies is amazing and I want to keep going. And I know that at the snap of a finger it can be taken away. So each and every moment I have to enjoy — and stay humble as well. Because you don’t want to get too ahead of yourself. Day by day, step by step, you go on with life.”
Covering the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons from January through October 2020, Davies featured in 33 matches and scored two goals and six assists. Along the way, he was chosen Canada Soccer’s Player of the Month in February, July and August as well as FC Bayern’s Player of the Month and the Bundesliga’s Rookie of the Month in May.
The young Canadian international joined Bayern from the Vancouver Whitecaps in a then-MLS record US$22-million transfer. The deal was done in July 2018, but Davies finished out the MLS season before joining Bayern in January 2019.
In April, he signed a contract extension with Bayern that will keep him with the German champions through June 2025.
Davies has won 17 caps for Canada, with five goals and seven assists. Off the pitch, he has attracted a huge social media following with 3.1 million followers on Instagram, 2.9 million on TikTok and 233,000 on Twitter.
Davies manages to hit the right chord on social media, playfully tweaking teammates with prank calls or horsing around with Huitema on TikTok. People take notice. After he wore a Pascal Siakam jersey in a photo, the Raptors star was quick to issue a plea for Davies’ Bayern jersey.
A former refugee, Davies also uses his platform for more serious needs. He became a Supporter of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees this year, using his social media channels and his public profile to raise awareness and funds for the cause.
“Alphonso has to be commended for his passion and spirit with which he plays, but also for his ability to connect with people off the field,” said Herdman. “He is a real ambassador for our sport in Canada and on the global stage.”
The Canadian Players of the Year Awards are presented by Allstate.
Past winners of the Canadian Players of the Year Award
2019: Jonathan David and Ashley Lawrence
2018: Alphonso Davies and Christine Sinclair
2017: Atiba Hutchinson and Kadeisha Buchanan
2016: Atiba Hutchinson and Christine Sinclair
2015: Atiba Hutchinson and Kadeisha Buchanan
2014: Atiba Hutchinson and Christine Sinclair
2013: Will Johnson and Christine Sinclair
2012: Atiba Hutchinson and Christine Sinclair
2011: Dwayne De Rosario and Christine Sinclair
2010: Atiba Hutchinson and Christine Sinclair
2009: Simeon Jackson and Christine Sinclair
2008: Julian de Guzman and Christine Sinclair
2007: Dwayne De Rosario and Christine Sinclair
2006: Dwayne De Rosario and Christine Sinclair
2005: Dwayne De Rosario and Christine Sinclair
2004: Paul Stalteri and Christine Sinclair
2003: Pat Onstad and Charmaine Hooper
2002: Jason deVos and Charmaine Hooper
2001: Paul Stalteri and Andrea Neil
2000: Craig Forrest and Christine Sinclair
1999: Jim Brennan and Geraldine Donnelly
1998: Tomasz Radzinski and Silvana Burtini
1997: Mark Watson and Janine Helland
1996: Paul Peschisolido and Geraldine Donnelly
1995: Alex Bunbury and Charmaine Hooper
1994: Craig Forrest and Charmaine Hooper
1993: Alex Bunbury
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press