Paul Stalteri first saw Alphonso Davies when he was 14 at a Canadian under-15 camp in Toronto.
“You could tell right away he had something different,” says Stalteri, a former Canada captain who was a Canada Soccer youth coach at the time.
“Obviously at 14 a different body than he has now, but he was quick and dynamic and still powerful when you compared him to the players around him.”
The question then was where would he play?
“At that age, almost the way he is now, you can play him in any other position. And he could do special things,” said Stalteri, now an assistant coach at Toronto FC. “We had him in front, we took him out wide. Obviously you’re not going to put one of your best players, if not your best player, at full-back at that stage, but we’ve had him up top with Jonathan (David) in (a few) games which was a pretty powerful tandem together.”
“He had all the tools to be a real big player,” he added.
A move to Bayern Munich in early 2019 helped unlock those tools with then-manager Niko Kovac establishing himself as a left-back after injuries forced Bayern to make changes to its back line.
“People always looked at him as a striker or a winger up until that point,” said Stalteri, who blazed a trail for Canadians in Germany where he won the Bundesliga title with Werder Bremen.
“Look where is he now? He is probably the best one in the world in his position. He’s had a good run and he’s at a great club. Choosing that place to go was huge for him in his development and a very good decision for him.”
Now Davies shines on football’s biggest stage.
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Davies’ story is well known. Davies, who was born in a refugee camp in Ghana to parents who fled the civil war in Liberia, came to Canada when he was five.
In July 2016, a 15-year-old Davies signed a homegrown player contract with the Vancouver Whitecaps, becoming the third youngest in history to sign an MLS deal. Two years later, the Whitecaps agreed to sell Davies to Bayern Munich in a then-record MLS deal, potentially worth more than $22 million.
Davies, then 17, finished the season with Vancouver before officially joining Bayern in January 2019.
He was just 16 when he made his senior debut for Canada in June 2017 against Curaçao, becoming the youngest male player in Canadian team history. He had obtained his Canadian citizenship the week before.
Davies scored twice in his next national team outing, a 4-2 win over French Guiana at the 2017 Gold Cup, where he won the Golden Boot award as top scorer and the Best Young Player award. as well as being named the tournament’s Best XI. .
Davies has since become the face of Canadian men’s soccer, on and off the field. In June 2018, he opened Canada’s presentation to the FIFA Council in Moscow as part of the joint North American bid, along with the US and Mexico, to host the 2026 World Cup.
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“The people of North America have always welcomed me. If I get the opportunity, I know they will welcome you,” he told delegates.
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Davies now has 12 goals and 16 assists in 34 games for Canada. And his dream of playing at a home World Cup is on track.
In March 2021, Davies became the first soccer player and first Canadian to be appointed as a Global Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). He has already pledged to donate his World Cup earnings to charity.
Davies played 143 games for Bayern in all competitions with eight goals and 21 assists. And his trophy cabinet is packed with three Bundesliga titles, two German Cups, the UEFA Super Cup, DFL Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup, not to mention a UEFA Champions League winner’s medal.
He was Canada Soccer’s Player of the Year in 2018, ’20 and ’21 and CONCACAF Player of the Year in 2021.
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Davies has had a roller-coaster year, sidelined with symptoms of myocarditis, a mild heart condition, following a bout of COVID-19 over the Bundesliga’s winter break.
He missed seven of Canada’s 14 games in CONCACAF’s final round of World Cup qualifying, finally returning to action in mid-April.
More recently, he suffered a skull contusion after taking a boot to the face of Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham in early October. And he limped out of a Nov. 5 game at Hertha Berlin with his hamstring.
Both Bayern and Davies say he is good to go in Qatar. Canada coach John Herdman has his fingers crossed.
Davies also endeared himself to many off the pitch.
His social media accounts are followed by a legion of fans. He has 6.6 million followers on TikTok, 5.1 million on Instagram and 472,800 on Twitter.
While on the sidelines earlier this year, Davies was a keen observer of the Canadian men as they marched towards World Cup qualification – a bundle of energy as he live-streamed his reaction.
More recently, he enthusiastically showed off his Halloween costume – he rides a dinosaur – on TikTok.
Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio says success hasn’t spoiled Davies.
“He hasn’t changed with everything he’s achieved,” the Toronto FC star said. “And that’s really admirable. I think that is a great achievement in itself.
“Not to lose yourself with everything that’s going on with him and with all the attention and with the amount of achievements and awards he’s had, it’s quite amazing that he can still just be a normal kid and enjoy his life and in today as himself and no one else. He is truly himself in everything he does on social media, in real life.”
Osorio continues to marvel at his human-high Canadian teammate.
“It’s pretty incredible the things he can do athletically. I have the privilege of seeing it most days in training.”
Canada captain Christine Sinclair is an unabashed fan of the 22-year-old from Edmonton.
“Once he has the ball, you just feel anything is possible,” she said.
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Even when he doesn’t have the ball.
In May 2020, Davies chased down striker Erring Haaland, then with Borussia Dortmund, from behind to end a penalty threat. he was clocked at 35.3 kilometers per hour in pursuit of Haaland, now with Manchester City.
Bayern veteran Thomas Muller dubbed Davies the Bayern Road Runner that day, referring to the speedy cartoon character.
“He’s a player with a lot of heart and a lot of strength, extreme strength,” Mueller said after the game. “Sometimes maybe he’s not (at his) best position on the pitch, but he gets the opponent when you think, ‘Oh, I’ve got time, I’ve got time’ and then ‘Meep meep meep meep’ comes the FC Bayern Road Run forward and steal the ball.”
And his rocket-like acceleration to intercept a ball – heading for contact with a Panama defender who outruns it – then steaming with purpose, stripping a defender before undressing the ‘keeper in a World Cup qualifier in October 2021 knock, only added to that legend.
Davies’ speed is nothing new to Edmonton’s Nick Huoseh, who coached him as a youngster and now represents him.
“He was like a gazelle,” Huoseh told The Canadian Press in 2020. “He would just take off and you couldn’t catch him.”