Hansi Flick was frozen on the sideline. Not because of the cold weather at the Allianz Arena in Munich, but because his Bayern Munich team were having difficulties in playing their usual exciting brand of football in the opening 25 minutes of their Bundesliga clash against title rivals RB Leipzig.
The league leaders were lacking penetration when in possession and were aimless without the ball. After a small mistake by the usually infallible Manuel Neuer, the visitors from Saxony took the lead. Veteran midfielder Javi Martinez grabbed his left thigh and asked to be substituted. It looked as if things would become even more difficult for an already weakened Bayern team.
"Get well soon, Javi," the depressed voice of Bayern's stadium announcer, Stephan Lehmann, echoed in the empty stadium. At that moment, the number 42 lit up on the fourth official's board. Jamal Musiala, almost 15 years younger and nearly four stone lighter than Martinez, stepped onto the pitch. And then something magical happened.
"Ha! I don't believe it," Lehmann laughed into the microphone when Musiala scored just five minutes after being introduced as a substitute. Even more impressive than his technically flawless finish, which four Leipzig defenders and goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi were unable to stop, was how the youngest player on the pitch, at only 17, interpreted his role in midfield.
With the greatest ease, Musiala controlled even the most complicated pass, elegantly wove his way through the opponents' lines and cleverly played the ball to his team-mates. This was exactly what happened four minutes after his goal, when he played an intelligent pass to help Thomas Muller put Bayern 2-1 up. In the end, Bayern only managed a 3-3 draw, but they finally discovered that they had a diamond on their hands.
"We didn't have that much ball control in the early stages. That changed with Jamal's substitution," Flick noted after Musiala's seventh appearance in the Bundesliga. Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann was also visibly taken with him: "The boy is very confident on the ball, quick on his feet and hard to defend. A very big talent."
A talent that has made an exciting journey from Germany to England and back again. A talent who enchants world stars and world-class coaches. A talent who we now know will play for the German national team.
Goal and SPOX have spoken to the most important figures in Musiala's life to trace his career so far...
There is a stone grandstand on the grounds of the Lehnerz sports club in the small German town of Fulda.
Eleven boys from the Under-7s team posed there for a photo together at the end of an extremely successful season. In the photo, none of them smiles as much as the small boy on the far right of the front row.
No wonder: Every boy is proudly displaying their gold medals and silver sculptures, but only one child also has a gold-silver boot with the inscription "TSV Lehnerz G-Juniors 2008-09 Top Scorer." A gift from his first coach.
"The boy scored five to 10 goals per game," recalls Micha Hoffmann, with a laugh: "I would have been a bad coach if I hadn't at least given him a small thank you."
For Jamal Musiala, the boot is more than a gesture. The trophy still has a prominent place in his home in Munich, reminding him of a carefree and unforgettable time, of his roots. TSV Lehnerz, today playing under the name SG Barockstadt Fulda-Lehnerz, was his first, and for a long time, only club in Germany.
Musiala was actually born in Stuttgart on February 26, 2003, as the son of a German mother with Polish roots and a Nigerian father. At the age of two, however, the family decided to move to Fulda, a good 150 miles away, because his mother, Carolin, was starting her bachelor's degree in social sciences there.
Hoffmann still thinks enthusiastically of his first meeting with the boy. "We had indoor training. Jamal was only four years old, but he did the exercises by himself without any fear," he says.
In his first season alone, the highly gifted player broke the 100-goal mark. A blessing for TSV - but also a sign. "Jamal was underchallenged," Hoffmann says. "So we decided to let him play with older players. His father was also very much in favour of it."
Daniel Richard, known as "Rich", once played at a higher level in his home country of Nigeria before moving to Germany. He accompanied his son on the first leg of his football journey, much like a personal coach would do. Branko Milenkovski, the boy's next coach in Lehnerz after Hoffmann, recalls: "Rich was totally crazy about football. He was always running up and down the line to cheer Jamal on. After most games, he was sweating more than his son!"
Mum Carolin, on the other hand, stood calmly on the sidelines, preferring to watch little Jamal play and occasionally taking a photo for the family album. In the beginning, coach Milenkovski's main task was to stop the boy from cheering goals scored by the opposing team.
"Jamal always wanted to cheer. It was clear to him that if a goal was scored, he would cheer. No matter which team scored the goal," says Milenkovski. "I can still remember Rich's typical reaction when Jamal celebrated with the opponent. First he threw his hands up in horror and then laughed his head off."
Fun still came first at this point. Nevertheless, any observer at the Lehnerz sports ground could easily see that Jamal Musiala was no ordinary child.
"He was sometimes two years younger than his opponents, and therefore a bit more delicate," Milenkovski remembers. "Nevertheless, he danced around the other players. Jamal was much further ahead mentally than the rest."
He and his predecessor Hoffmann were particularly impressed by the boy's close ball control. "He was incredibly nimble with his dribbling, he never lost the ball. Even back then it was a dream to watch him," Hoffmann enthuses.
Until the age of seven, Musiala was part of TSV Lehnerz, winning many games and tournaments with the club. Shortly afterwards, he made the second move in his life, one which also proved decisive for his football career. His mother Carolin was given the opportunity to take part in a four-month Erasmus programme at the University of Southampton, as part of her master's degree at Frankfurt's Goethe University. The entire family, which now also included Jamal's younger sister, Latisha, left Fulda.
St Mary's Stadium, Britannia Road, Southampton.
Carolin Musiala and Daniel Richard were getting fed up with all the unsuccessful phone calls as they tried to find a new football club for their son, Jamal.
It had only been a few days since the family moved to the southern English port city, but every day without a ball was a day lost for Jamal. In October 2010, his parents took the simple step of trying the biggest club in town: without an appointment, but with success. The family parked directly in front of the Saints Foundation office, Rich took his son by the hand and entered the building. Once there, the Musialas were lucky enough to come across Jazz Bhatti.
Bhatti worked full-time for the foundation and ran the City Central Football Club on the side, a recreational club in the heart of the city where children mainly from underprivileged and immigrant families get the chance to play with like-minded people on weekends. He invited Jamal to the U7s, which was coached by his brother, Rosh Bhatti.
"Jamal didn't speak a word of English when we first met, but he immediately made a social connection. He showed how quickly and easily football can connect different people from different countries and cultures," Rosh says.
At Central City, Musiala met, among others, Levi Colwill, a boy from Southampton with whom he shares a birthday, forming a friendship that lasts to this day.
Colwill was said to be the most talented player at Central City until Jamal's arrival. But after just a few days with the newcomer from Germany, Rosh Bhatti was certain that he had an absolutely exceptional talent in his ranks.
For the boy it was already a piece of a cake to imitate tricks of his favourite players Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi, Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry. After a few games and many goals for the U7s, Rosh moved him up a grade and sought out a conversation with Jamal's father, Rich. Afterwards, everyone agreed about the need to promote Jamal even more.
"Rich kept saying what a special talent his son was and that he could go far if he could be placed in a big club's junior section. A lot of people would have laughed at such a confident statement. I mean, what father wouldn't say something like that about his son? But Rich was right," Rosh Bhatti says.
So the Bhattis used their contacts in the Saints' scouting department. Rosh reached Dick Hayes, "a good acquaintance", to whom he had already recommended one or two promising young players in previous years. The scout promised to come to Jamal's next game: a game that was destined to change everything.
"It couldn't have gone better," says Rosh. "Jamal scored six goals in 10 minutes. But not only that, he showed great team spirit that day, which I have never seen in a player of that age. His aim was to assist a goal for each of his team-mates."
The plan almost worked perfectly, though in the end one boy failed to score in the clash between the U8 teams of Central City and the Pace Pumas. "Jamal was very annoyed about it," recalls Rosh. But the Stuttgart-born player's performance was sensational enough without that final assist.
Hayes rushed to the Bhatti brothers immediately after the final whistle to announce that he wanted to invite the boy from Germany for a trial training session. A week later, in November 2010, Musiala was on one of the pitches at the Staplewood Campus, the club's training ground west of Southampton city centre. "They immediately used him in a test match," Rosh reports. "Then this time Jamal actually scored double figures. Awesome."
Afterwards, a talk with Terry Moore, the head of the Saints Academy, was scheduled. "Moore said Jamal is the most talented kid he had ever seen, and the club have to do whatever it takes to sign him," reveals Rosh.
After his trial day with the Saints, Jamal successfully played at the Staplewood Campus for a few weeks before scouts from other parts of the country took notice and made the pilgrimage to Southampton to get a first-hand impression of the young forward. Among them were scouts from Chelsea and Arsenal.
Invitations for trials at Chelsea's Cobham and Arsenal's Hale End followed. Word of the interest shown by the two top London clubs spread quickly within the Saints' offices - until in January 2011, Nicola Cortese himself became active and organised a meeting with Musiala in his office.
Cortese was the most important and powerful official at the club at this time, the executive chairman. He was usually busy recruiting senior footballers, but now he became hell-bent on making a seven-year-old the new figurehead of the Saints Academy. As an Italian-born Swiss, he spoke to Musiala in German.
"A crazy story," recalls Rosh Bhatti, who was also present at the meeting.
"Mr Cortese was very sympathetic and eloquent. He was interested in the boy and announced that he wanted to pull out all the stops to tie him to the club with a long-term youth contract."
The family was impressed by the meeting, but had to return to Fulda shortly afterwards because Carolin's Erasmus programme in Southampton had come to an end. Once there, she made plans to move to England permanently. Carolin, who was now writing her master's thesis, would prefer to move to the multicultural metropolis of London, and was looking around for jobs and flats there as a priority.
As an ardent Saints fan, Rosh Bhatti nevertheless hoped to see Jamal back at Southampton soon. On 28 January 2011, he posted on Facebook:
Corpus Christi Catholic Primary School, Chestnut Grove, the London borough of New Malden.
For a nine-year-old, Musiala's remarkably good English was well worthy of praise. His teachers shared this opinion – and named him one of the winners of the annual poetry competition.
"Moment", the title of his short poem, was also printed shortly afterwards in the book "Around the World in 80 Words: Surrey".
"I am sitting in the car. I'm looking out of the window. Outside it's cold – it's wintertime. But I'm sweating. I'm nervous. I don't know what will happen. Suddenly the car stops. I close my eyes. I take a deep breath. I'm not nervous anymore. I'm happy. I know what I've to do. My dad opens the door and says 'Good luck for your first trial for one of the best Premier League clubs!' I'm playing like never before."
Those memories are of his first day at Chelsea's training ground in Cobham after the Blues had won the three-way battle with Southampton and Arsenal for the exceptional talent. The decision was helped by the fact that Carolin Musiala had found a job in the west of Surrey in Farnham, not too far from Chelsea's training ground. She was employed there as a marketing executive for an American life science company.
For Jamal, the decision in favour of Chelsea proved to be the right one. He immediately made social connections at his new place of work. His old friend Levi Colwill, who Chelsea also brought from Southampton, and many of the other boys from his year were like him; boys who felt like little stars when they spotted Frank Lampard, John Terry or Didier Drogba at Cobham or sat directly behind the professional benches for a Premier League match at Stamford Bridge.
At home, however, as soon as they stowed their blue tracksuits in the wardrobe, they found themselves in simple, sometimes even poor circumstances, and lived by the mantra: No pain, no gain.
Musiala also demonstrated this diligence off the pitch. He was considered a model pupil with a high level of self-motivation and openness to new things. During his primary school years at Corpus Christi, for example, he joined a chess club and attended courses in the Korean martial art Hapkido on afternoons when he was not playing football. Playing chess taught him to think more strategically, while Hapkido training helped to make him more agile.
It is not only Chelsea that benefited from this. Under the guidance of the dedicated sports teacher Tony Mesourouni, Musiala sent the Corpus Christi school team into the finals of the prestigious Premier League and Football League school tournaments year after year.
"Over 1,000 schools took part across the country," Mesourouni explains.
Between 2011 and 2014, his team won three Premier League tournaments alone, with the young Musiala finishing as top scorer in two of them. He played one of his strongest tournaments at Anfield. "Jamal was awarded player of the tournament and top goal scorer by two Liverpool players, Jordan Henderson and Dirk Kuyt," recalls the coach.
In addition, the Corpus Christi squad triumphed in the 2013 Football League Grand Tournament. Part of the final day at Wembley: a training session with future national team coach Gareth Southgate.
In his final year at Corpus Christi, Jamal also made a big leap personality-wise. On a guided tour of Wembley Stadium, he pestered his PE teacher with questions. "Jamal, as always willing to learn, wanted to know which football players had scored a hat-trick at Wembley. Before the game I told the squad to work hard and enjoy the chance of playing at Wembley. Jamal said to me I am going to try and score a hat-trick. He managed to score four goals."
At this point, few observers knew that Musiala played for Chelsea. Being a school from south-west London, Mesourouni's team represented the clubs based there. That is why the little goal scorer usually wore a Fulham shirt at school tournaments in the Premier League. Sometimes he also slipped into the kits of Brentford and AFC Wimbledon.
Chelsea, however, remained the only club he played for in England outside of his school days because of his good relationship with most of his team-mates, and especially coaches like James Simmonds, who let him mature from season to season in terms of play and tactics.
But also because of some particularly formative experiences, like his time with the U12s at the Lech Cup in Poznan, Poland, where he scored one of his finest goals at youth level, or the U13s' triumph at the 100th anniversary of the Premier League Christmas Truce Tournament in Ypres, Belgium, which earned him a meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron in Downing Street.
One of his biggest achievements was the scholarship he received at the age of 11 for the elite Whitgift School in South Croydon. The private school works closely with the Blues Academy, coordinating lessons with playing and training schedules.
The main person responsible for this was Andrew Martin, the director of the Whitgift football department, who from then on became an important supporter of Musiala. Even beyond the five lessons per week, the Welsh ex-professional, who played for Crystal Palace, among others, took care of the boy.
Mr Martin adds: "Through spending so much time together, Jamal and I had a special relationship both on and off the pitch as we both respected each other and were comfortable with each other." That is why it was important for Mr Martin to support him in everything to further his footballing and personal development. This also included taking away doubts from the boy who was becoming a teenager.
"Although a small lad, he was already very tenacious and resilient and would compete well against the bigger and stronger boys, never complaining when he was fouled or kicked," says Mr Martin.
"But one moment that sticks in my mind was a national semi-final at U13s. We played a very strong and physical team away from home and they had their whole school out to watch. Jamal was fouled continuously and couldn't really get into the game, becoming frustrated. But I reminded him at half-time how good he was and to stay focused. He would get a chance and when it came he would take it. Jamal scored two goals in the second half for us to win the game 3-1."
Games like this one made Musiala believe more and more in his own abilities.
St George's Park, Newborough Road, Burton upon Trent.
It is not Christmas yet, but for the boy wearing the No.11 shirt for England U15s, December 18, 2017 already feels a lot like it.
Just 22 minutes had passed in the Young Lions' match against the Netherlands when Musiala scored his third goal of the game, following it up with a casual knee-slide and even more casual handshake with his friend Jude Bellingham. A flawless hat-trick.
Not too much happened after that. England won 3-2 under the guidance of their coach Kevin Betsy, but the match-winner could not have been prouder.
For him, it was a wonderful end to a wonderful year. It was a great moment in his career as a young footballer, one that whetted his appetite for more – and one that slowly drew the attention of the German Football Association (DFB) to take a closer look at the boy.
A good 10 months later, he was invited to join the German U16 team in Pirmasens.
There, on October 12, 2018, Musiala stood at the Husterhöhe Sports Park, shaking his head. He had just completed his second test match for Christian Wuck's team, a 25-minute stint in a 4-1 defeat to Belgium, and could hardly wait for the flight back to England. Musiala and the DFB did not fit together - yet. The contact on the part of the association obviously honoured him. But he did not know neither coach Wuck nor his team-mates very well.
Nevertheless, at the age of 15, he still had plenty of time to decide which nation he would go on to play for. In this phase of his life, he was fully focused on Chelsea, to whom he was now giving up more and more of his private life. Overnight stays with selected Chelsea host families near the training ground and trips abroad were a part of his routine. After three years, he left Whitgift School at the behest of the Blues and was now revising for his GCSEs at the club's school corporation.
This was proof that his coaches and the people in charge at the Blues Academy had confidence in him making the leap to the professional level. Musiala was a goal scorer and playmaker at the same time.
"Jamal could read the game very well early on," says his former Whitgift teacher Andrew Martin. "Add to that, those majestic dribbles, those excellent movements in tight spaces and that coolness in front of the opponent's goal – it made him unstoppable."
Nevertheless, the dream of playing at Stamford Bridge did not become reality. This was primarily for personal reasons, as Brexit made the family consider the idea of returning to Germany.
More importantly, Bayern, his favourite club in his early childhood, were watching him. The Munich club were actually courting another Chelsea talent in 2019: Callum Hudson-Odoi. During the talks with Hasan Salihamidzic, his agent and brother, Bradley, mentioned the name Jamal Musiala several times. Bayern, however, had long known who Musiala was and what he could do.
Head scout Marco Neppe had closely observed the player multiple times since 2017, while Alexander Moj, the coach of the U16s had noticed him a couple of years earlier. "I first saw Jamal play and got to know him in 2015 during a friendly trip to London with FC Augsburg," Moj reveals and adds enthusiastically:
At another tournament, a year later in Warwick, Moj met the boy again and also got to know his family, which now included a third child, Jerrell. After a "very pleasant conversation", he gave the Musialas a small package with Bayern Munich gifts. "I wanted to give Jamal's little sister and brother something in particular, as the family in Germany has supported Bayern Munich. We then stayed in touch," Moj says.
Three years later, he met the family again – in Munich. "At our reunion after Jamal's transfer, his mother told me that his sister Latisha always wore the Bayern cap I had given her at Warwick in 2016. And that Jamal's father had the Bayern pendant in his lanyard from then on," Moj recalled. "The family has always had a good feeling about Bayern Munich ever since."
Not just the family. "I had a few offers at the time," Musiala tells Goal and SPOX, "but choosing Bayern just felt right. And let's be honest: When a club like Bayern Munich wants you, you cannot turn it down."
Bayern Munich Campus, Ingolstadter Street, Munich's Freimann district.
On one hot day in July, Musiala still looked a bit battered from the broken jaw he suffered as a result of a sports activity during his GCSE exam, in the run-up to his move to Bavaria. Danny Schwarz looked a little sceptical when he saw the new signing walk across the pitch for the first time.
The 16-year-old, who would initially start in the U17 team with Miroslav Klose, seemed "inconspicuous" to Schwarz. "After our first meeting, I thought to myself: 'Man, he's shy and reserved.' I couldn't imagine that Jamal would explode like that on the pitch," says the coach, who was in charge of the U19s together with Martin Demichelis at the time.
"This impression was initially reinforced in his first training sessions with the U17s, where he was just as inconspicuous, almost seemed a little inhibited."
The injury was to blame. "It was clear to us that he would have difficulties getting started because of his broken jaw," says Schwarz. To make sure things did not go too slowly, Musiala put in numerous extra shifts away from normal training on campus under the supervision of his personal trainer, Steffen Tepel.
Tepel, who specialises in the sports psychology of neuro athletics, still works on a regular basis with Musiala to improve his "reflexive stability". He explains that an example of this is “how strongly you can counter-attack in a duel, in order to further improve your ball control even under strong opposition pressure. This can be improved, among other things, by improving your sense of balance and eye movements. Both systems are in direct neural communication with the spinal and trunk muscles. For example, trunk muscles, which are enormously important for strength in duels, can be specifically turned on or off via eye movements."
It did not take long before Musiala was ready to join the U19s – and Schwarz had to revise his first impression of the youngster after just a few sessions: "He brought his weapons onto the pitch impressively quickly."
The coach was particularly taken with Musiala's first touch: "He leaves his marker behind with just one turn and is able to create new situations. He can dribble around several players without any problems. He's a street footballer. He doesn't say to himself: 'Now I'm going to do two stepovers and then I'll move the ball to the left with his foot. He does it intuitively. I have only very rarely seen that in a player. That's a gift, you can't train that."
But Schwarz and the other coaches on campus still had something to teach the teenager.
"Miro [Klose], Micho [Demichelis] and I put the focus on his defensive game. We said: 'Try your game up front, trust your instincts. And if you lose the ball 100 times, then you lose the ball 100 times. But if you stand still after losing the ball instead of working back, we will have problems," says Schwarz while making an interesting comparison:
On June 20, 2020, less than a year after his arrival in Munich, Jamal Musiala was substituted on for Muller in the 88th minute of the Bundesliga match against Freiburg. Eight convincing appearances for the U19s and 10 even more convincing ones for Sebastian Hoeness' U23s prompted Hansi Flick to make the 17-year-old the youngest Bundesliga player in Bayern Munich history. It was the conclusion of a remarkable development – and at the same time the beginning of something completely new.
Flick enthused about an "outstanding talent" and praised the Bayern academy for signing him. A short time later, the diamond joined the senior squad at the Champions League 'Final 8' tournament in Lisbon, where Bayern emerged as European champions. Despite not playing in Portugal, it was an unbelievable experience for Musiala, and he even got a souvenir photo of himself arm-in-arm with one of his idols, Neymar.
After the short summer break in 2020, Musiala made his breakthrough, scoring his first Bundesliga goal in an 8-0 win over Schalke on September 18. He finally made his Champions League debut away to Atletico Madrid at the beginning of December, and shortly after that, in the Bundesliga match against RB Leipzig, the hype surrounding Bayern's young No.42 was unstoppable.
Besides Flick, even his team-mates were now starting to publicly rave about him. "Jamal is amazingly good for his age," said Joshua Kimmich. And Manuel Neuer made clear: "The boy is an important part of our team."
Kimmich and Neuer, as well as Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane, Leon Goretzka and Frenchman Kingsley Coman became increasingly close friends for the starlet from week to week. Sane affectionately gave the lanky teenager the nickname "Bambi". And "workaholic" Kimmich made it his business to get Musiala to do extra training in the weight room at Sabener Strasse.
In doing so, Kimmich, like his other German team-mates, never missed a chance to convince him to move to the DFB. Since his rather unfortunate U16 adventure in Pirmasens, Musiala had not played a game with the eagle on his chest, and instead wore the jersey of the Three Lions.
That is about to change. Shortly before his 18th birthday, Musiala made the decision to join Germany – thanks to the persuasive efforts of Kimmich and Co., but also to the efforts of national coach Joachim Low, who met the player in person at the end of January 2021 in the Allianz Arena before remaining in contact to show him a clear future perspective in his team, with the support of the DFB management around Oliver Bierhoff.
"It was not an easy decision for me," clarifies Musiala in an interview with Goal and SPOX. "I have a heart for Germany and a heart for England. Both hearts will keep beating. In the end I just listened to my feeling that it was the right decision to play for Germany, the land I was born in." England, however, will "always remain a home" for him, he says. His father still lives in London.
"I was just seven years old, when I arrived in the UK and I hardly understood a word. But the language of football and the kindness of the British people helped me with my integration. Even though I was different, a little boy, mixed background and couldn't speak the language. They have always given me a feeling to be welcome. In football it is the moment, the passion and of course the fun which unites people. It's the magic of football. All of that has made me the person I am today."
A special person. A special footballer. One that not only the German national team can look forward to. Musiala will soon sign his first professional contract with Bayern Munich, and continue his impressive story.