News Matches

Germany's own Messi? Jamal Musiala arrives at the World Cup as a genuine Ballon d'Or contender

8:00 PM MYT 22/11/2022
Jamal Musiala Germany 2022
The 19-year-old has been the best player in the Bundesliga this season and could now provide the X-factor for Hansi Flick's team in Qatar.

Lothar Matthaus loves Jamal Musiala. Even Lothar Matthaus' family love Jamal Musiala. He's even his son's favourite player.

So, when Germany's record appearance-maker is asked to give his opinion on Musiala, he isn't afraid to make the ultimate footballing comparison.

"When he is on the field, this is like Messi three years ago," Matthaus told the Daily Mail back in September. "He has everything: fast, good dribbling, the last pass, he can score. He gets the ball and always goes forward.

"He is also learning to work better for the defence. He is becoming the complete player. In the future, he will be one of the very best players in the world."

When Matthaus made that statement, he was, of course, comparing Musiala to Messi's Ballon d'Or-winning form of 2019, and though he backed the teenager to become one of the game's best in the future, he probably wouldn't have predicted that Musiala would find himself in contention for the Golden Ball just a few months later.

But that is exactly where he's at right now. After an electric start to the season for Bayern Munich, the expectation is that he will be a breakout star of the World Cup and potential game-changer for Germany in Qatar.

If that happens and Hansi Flick's team progress to the latter stages, then there should be no reason for Musiala not to be in the Ballon d'Or running come the end of the campaign.

So far in 2022-23, the 19-year-old has been the standout player in the Bundesliga.

Only three players have scored more than his nine league goals so far this season, while he is the leading player in the German top-flight for direct goal involvements (goals plus assists), with 16 in just 14 appearances.

Two of those assists came in Bayern's final match before the World Cup break, as Musiala celebrated becoming the youngest player to make 100 appearances for Germany's most successful club side in style. He won't turn 20 until February, for what it's worth.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Matthaus wasted no time in making the grandest of comparisons once more, this time to Sky Sports.

"That's like Messi. That's Hollywood," he gleefully exclaimed following the Bavarians' 2-0 win over Schalke. "He must never leave Bayern – he always has to play. His value is a quarter of a billion!"

Such a fee might seem fanciful, but it's fair given the level of performance that Musiala has been reaching over the past few months.

He has already surpassed his goal and assist totals for last season, and is beginning to dominate games from a central midfield role that isn't even his preferred position.

Eventually, he will be tasked with filling the void in the No.10 role at the Allianz Arena that will be left by Thomas Muller's retirement.

But the big question ahead of Germany's World Cup opener against Japan on Wednesday is whether Musiala should be selected ahead of Muller for the national team.

Flick has plenty of attacking talent to choose from in Qatar, with in-form Bayern wingers Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane set to flank a central striker, who in all likelihood will be Kai Havertz.

So, unless Musiala is shifted out wide and selected ahead of one of his club-mates, then it could come down to a battle between Musiala and Muller for a starting role.

Right now, it's hard to argue against picking the younger man.

That would have taken some predicting four years ago following Germany's surprise group-stage exit at the 2018 World Cup.

Musiala was, at the time, part of an England youth side that also featured Jude Bellingham, and was making his way through Chelsea's famed academy.

A year later, though, the Stuttgart-born teenager was on his way back to Germany to sign for Bayern, and the rest is history.

"Thank you, England, for giving him to us!" said a hubristic Matthaus during his Daily Mail interview. "I do not know why you did not fight more to keep this player in the English shirt. We are so happy to have him."

But aside from the goals and assists, what makes Musiala such a special player and potential superstar of the World Cup?

"He is a really silky player, really smooth," his Bayern team-mate Matthijs de Ligt explained to ESPN.

"His dribbling is quite strange because sometimes you think he loses the ball and then, with his leg, he just gets it back.

"He’s an amazing talent and he’s doing really well right now. I think the most important thing is that he keeps working hard, that he stays humble, but I’m sure that a guy like Jamal will do that."

That dribbling style was recently compared to Kaka by former Bayern midfielder Owen Hargreaves, who also labelled Musiala as being "unique" among modern attacking midfielders.

All signs point, then, to Germany's games being appointment viewing in Qatar as long as Musiala is on the pitch.

'The new Messi' might be pushing it a bit, Lothar, but there is no doubt that a special talent has emerged in Munich, and is now set to announce himself to the whole world.