Jamal Musiala: Breakout star of the season?

Jamal Musiala Bayern
Records are tumbling for the Bayern Munich teenager, who is set to star for the Bavarians for many years to come

In August, Bayern Munich pipped Paris Saint-Germain to capture a sixth Champions League crown, affirming their primacy in European football.

It was a triumph built on the nous of the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller, the mastery and grace of Thiago Alcantara, Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba, and the youth and vivacity of Serge Gnabry, Kingsley Coman and Alphonso Davies.

Rather gloomily for the opposition, they have begun the new season in the same bent and with the same glint in their eye.

Despite a blip against Hoffenheim that saw them humbled in Bundesliga, Hansi Flick’s side is now predictably top of the pile once more, and are just as relentless in the Champions League Group Stage so far. They will, once again, take some stopping; there are precious few sides in Europe with the tools to fend off Bayern, and it is difficult to envisage anyone seriously standing between them and a dynasty.

Except, perhaps, age.

Both Lewandowski and Muller are well into their 30s, and so is defensive stalwart Jerome Boateng. While it would be foolhardy to bet against them, they surely cannot go on for much longer. When the Lazarus pit into which they immerse themselves dries up, where will Bayern be in terms of strength?

Lewandowski Bayern 2020

Well, that’s where a player of Jamal Musiala’s profile and talents comes in.

Only 17, the attacker, who can play all across the front line, has burst onto the scene this term after eight goals in 22 appearances at youth level for the club. Along with Joshua Zirkzee, who introduced himself last season, it appears Musiala is very much part of the club’s long-term succession plan.

The lithe, wiry attacker was plucked from Chelsea’s youth system at age 16, having already displayed an aptitude for playing at higher age groups. That trend has held since his return to Germany, the country of his birth, and now he finds himself very much on the cusp of the first-team.

Flick has been considered in his introduction of the player, but the effort to do so has, nevertheless, been deliberate.

So far this term, he has played 81 minutes over five matches, the most being a 25-minute cameo in a nerve-shredding 4-3 win over Hertha Berlin on matchday three. His two senior goals so far have come in drubbings: a low, drilled shot in the 8-0 over Schalke on the opening day, making him the club’s youngest-ever goalscorer in Bundesliga, and a cool far-post finish 5-0 against Eintracht Frankfurt a fortnight ago.

There is a paradox for young players in an environment like Bayern: it can be easier to score goals within a side that creates so much, but it can also be easier to stick out like a sore thumb.

Jamal Musiala Bayern Munich 2019-20

Perhaps that is the biggest credit to Musiala – he does not. More than his considerable talent, it is his unflappability under pressure, a quality attested to by the youth coaches at the club, and his desire in pressing and harrying that have worked in his favour.

Flick’s insatiability and drive for perfection would not allow any less.

In that sense, his involvement can be seen as a reward from an approving manager, but the impact has been all his own work.

Born to a Nigerian father and a German mother, Musiala is in the peculiar situation of being eligible for three different nations. He has, in fact, represented both Germany and England, where he moved at age eight on account of his mother’s academic pursuits, at various youth levels, and appears to have an open mind with regard to his international future. Reports suggest, however, that Nigeria lags behind in this stake, despite the fact he apparently picked up football from his father.

Clearly then, a tug-of-war is in the offing, and it is easy enough to see why. Musiala has been compared to England midfielder Dele Alli, but his frame evokes another movement-expert: Thomas Muller.

One can imagine the raumdeuter has quite a way to go yet before calling it quits, but in Musiala Bayern are effectively hot-housing a replacement from within. If he turns out to be anywhere near as good, he would undoubtedly be an asset for many years to come, both for club and country.