Rumours continue to swirl about a deal that would send the teenage star of the Vancouver Whitecaps to an elite European soccer club, but teammates say Alphonso Davies isn’t letting success go to his head.
Recent reports suggest the 17-year-old midfielder is headed to German powerhouse Bayern Munich for a potential MLS record transfer fee.
Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson said Monday that an agreement had not yet been finalized.
“He’s still our player at this present moment,” he said after training.
Vancouver midfielder Russell Teibert said he couldn’t be happier for Davies, who he described as a great friend and teammate, and an outstanding person.
“It’s something like a fairy tale, to be honest, because every time he gets an opportunity, he steps up to the plate and he nails it and he hits out of the park,” he said. “And that’s tough to say for another 17-year-old in this country let alone the world.”
Known for his blistering speed and uncanny ability to maintain control of the ball, Davies has been a star for the Whitecaps this season, posting three goals and eight assists in 20 games. He’s also scheduled to play in the MLS all-star game next month.
But the teen hasn’t let either success on the field or reports about his future swell his ego, Teibert said.
“He takes everything in stride and he’s so modest about who he is and what’s happening,” he said. ”Any other person or kid would maybe act a different type of way. But he’s just the same Alphonso Davies and that speaks volumes to his character.”
Davies was back at Whitecaps training on Monday, working on passing and dribbling drills on the sidelines while most of his teammates scrimmaged.
He missed training with his team last Friday and wasn’t present for the Whitecaps’ 2-0 loss in Seattle on Saturday, which dropped Vancouver to ninth place in the MLS Western Conference.
Robinson admitted that the team has missed having Davies on the field.
“He’s arguably been our best player this year,” he said. ”It’s difficult because he’s a 17-year-old and there’s a lot of expectation and pressure on him. But he’s played with freedom and enjoyment.”
Losing Davies would be a blow for the Whitecaps, who have struggled recently, losing five of their last six matches.
Other members of the team need to up their game, Teibert said.
“You can’t replace a kid like that. He’s a wonder kid. But we need to fill in for him,” he said. ”We need guys all around the field. We don’t just need one person to fill in, we need 11 guys. We need leaders, we need people to step up to the plate.”
Over the past two months, Davies has shown “rapid improvement,” a result of spending more than two years developing with the team, Robinson said.
READ MORE: Canada to host 2026 World Cup, but not B.C.
The Whitecaps brought Davies into their residency program when he was 15. He had been living with his family in Edmonton, where they had settled after immigrating from a refugee camp in Ghana. Davies was born in the camp after his parents fled the Liberian civil war.
He received his Canadian citizenship in July 2017 and was called up to play on the men’s national team soon after.
At the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, Davies became the youngest player to ever score for team Canada and the youngest goalscorer in the tournament’s history. He took home the Gold Boot and Best Young Player honours from the event.
“The boy’s got potential. We know that. He’s developed into a wonderful player,” Robinson said.
Playing in Europe would give Davies an opportunity to compete with world-class players and get “fantastic coaching,” he added.
Whitecaps defender Marcel de Jong played in both the Netherlands and Germany, and said his young teammate is sure to face some culture shock overseas.
“Soccer is a religion. Six, seven, eight, nine newspapers every day writing about you, criticizing you after every game,” de Jong said. “So you have to be mentally prepared for that. But he’s a good boy …. he’s got a good head on his shoulders so he’ll be fine.”
Heading to Europe will be a natural progression for Davies, Robinson said, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be hard for those he leaves behind.
“Will I be sad? 100 per cent. He’s like one of my own,” the coach said.
The Canadian Press