Alphonso Davies was turning heads at Bayern Munich before the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt on the Bundesliga season, so much so that the Bavarian giants inked the 19-year-old to a two-year contract extension.
Davies has been the poster child of Canadian soccer ever since his transfer to Bayern from the Vancouver Whitecaps was announced in the summer of 2018. Playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world means he casts a very big shadow over his Canadian national team cohorts.
But Jonathan David, a rising star in his own right, is poised to step out from Davies’s silhouette and take European club soccer by storm. If that comes as a surprise, well, you haven’t been paying close enough attention.
David, 20, was enjoying a breakout 2019-20 campaign with Gent, topping the Belgian league’s scoring charts with 18 goals, and another five in the UEFA Europa League – this after he scored an impressive 14 goals in all competitions for Gent in 2018-19, his first as a professional.
The Ottawa native has also become an invaluable attacker for John Herdman since making his national team debut for Canada in 2018. He starred at last summer’s Concacaf Gold Cup, when he led all scorers with six goals and was named to the tournament’s best XI. With 11 goals in 12 appearances, David is expected to quickly overtake Dwayne De Rosario as Canada’s all-time scorer – DeRo bagged 22 goals in 81 appearances for the Reds.
The Transfermarkt website lists David’s current market value at $24.75 million – Davies, at $49.5 million, is the only Canadian with a higher market value. David also cracked ESPN.com’s recent list of the 36 best U-21 players in the world, alongside such notable names as PSG’s Kylian Mbappe, Atlético Madrid’s João Félix, and Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool.
The young Canadian’s exploits at Gent haven’t gone unnoticed by some of European soccer’s top clubs – David is on the radar of Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton, Inter Milan, Porto, Ajax, Olympique Lyon, Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen, to name but a few.
It’s difficult to predict exactly what this summer’s transfer market is going to look like in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, whether a financial crunch will force big clubs to sit on the sidelines instead of splashing major cash on recruits to bolster their rosters.
All that being said, you’d have to think that a major European outfit will make a transfer move for David. He’s too good and has such a bright future ahead of him – remember, he’s only 20 – that it’s inevitable that he leaves Gent this summer for greener pastures and better opportunities.
David has grown and become a more well-rounded player during his tenure at Gent by developing his finishing skills and ability to hold up the ball to bring his teammates into the play, building upon his natural pace and direct attacking style.
But, bluntly stated, David has to move on. Gent has nothing more to offer him at this point. If he wants to further develop as a player and test his skills at the highest level, he has to leave Belgium this summer.
“While David has hardly put a foot wrong and has impressed in the Europa League, his next logical step is a move to a higher competitive level,” Tor-Kristian Karlsen noted about David in his ranking of the best U-21 players in the world for ESPN.com.
Just as important as when David leaves Gent is where he goes next. It has to be an intelligent move with the right club, as regular playing time is a must for the young Canadian.
That wasn’t the case for Davies right away when he made the move to Germany, as he only broke through as a first-team regular with Bayern this season. But such was Davies’ calibre, most observers knew it was only going to be a matter of time before he would prominently feature for the Bavarian giants after they properly nurtured his natural talent.
David needs a similar environment to succeed. He needs to be at a big club who sees the larger picture and views him as a long-term investment, rather than throwing him to the lions right away and banking on him as some sort of immediate saviour – whether that’s helping to turn a slumping club’s fortunes around (see: Arsenal) or help turn it into a top-four side (such as Everton).
The Canadian also needs to be at a stable outfit with little roster turnover, where he can be a major reference point of the attack, rather than a complimentary player or one of many options available to the manager.
While a move to Inter Milan (one of the teams interested in his services) would no doubt be lucrative, the inherent chaos of the Italian club, where players come and go at a drop of a hat, wouldn’t be in his best interest.
This summer is shaping up to be the most important in the career of Jonathan David. He has the world at his feet as one of the brightest prospects in the game. The young Canadian must smartly chart the course of his future and choose wisely. The entire package has to be right.