Germany might have exited through the back door at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but they still have some exciting young talent on display that can make them great in the years to come. Just ask Jamal Musiala, the 19-year-old diamond, that has recorded 12 completed dribbles in the win against Costa Rica, 4-2, in the last match of the group phase, the largest number of dribbles made by a single player in the competition since 1994.
Back then, Musiala was not even born, but he is now touted to be one of the best young players in the world and was definitely one to watch in the Bundesliga and in the UEFA Champions League in 2022, as his stock has risen immensely after signing for German giants Bayern Munchen.
It left England wondering “what could have been”, as Musiala has represented England at the Under-15, Under-16, Under-17, and Under-21 levels, before pledging his future for Germany in 2021, when he made his debut for the national team. In just over a year, he has already featured 20 times and scored once for the “Mannschaft”, becoming a regular in Hansi Flick’s team.
“I’ve thought about this question a lot. What is best for my future? Where do I have more chances to play? In the end, I just listened to the feeling that over a long period of time kept telling me that it was the right decision to play for Germany, the land I was born in. Still, it wasn’t an easy decision for me. I have a heart for Germany and a heart for England. Both hearts will keep on beating,” said Musiala for “The Athletic” in 2021.
Musiala was born in Stuttgart, Germany to a British-Nigerian Yoruba father and a German mother of Polish roots, before moving to England aged of seven. There, he started playing football at a club renowned for its football academy, Southampton, before signing for Chelsea, another team with a constant pipeline of young talent.
He immediately made an impact, thanks to his transcendent talent, and made his debut for the Chelsea Under-18 team aged only 15 years. Immediately, England tried to convince him to play for them and he did at the Under-15 level, before trying his luck with Germany, in the Under-16 squad.
But when Bayern Munich came and tried to poach him for Chelsea, it was a no-brainer. Bayern had a history of promoting young talent almost immediately, while Chelsea only recently tried to give chances to their youngsters. It also helped that Bayern really did their best to sign the player, while Chelsea did not offer competitive terms.
“I’m really happy about my years in England. There were a few interested teams in Europe. But if such a big club in Germany is interested, you can’t say no. And I loved Bavaria from an early age,” said Musiala.
Only a year later, Musiala became the youngest-ever player to feature for Bayern in the German Bundesliga, when he came off the bench in the match against Freiburg, to break the record, aged 17 years and 115 days old. He also became the second-youngest scorer in the Champions League knockout stages after Bojan Krkic, as his style of play, dribbling skills and excellent creativity drew comparisons with another football great, Lionel Messi.
“He has unbelievable potential. It’s extraordinary. He has great finishing qualities. Unbelievable attacking qualities also in his dribbling with the ball. He justified my trust in him. He’s doing very well. He has the foundation for an outstanding career,” said Bayern’s coach, Julian Nagelsmann, about Musiala.
His exceptional progress at Bayern, where he has already scored 27 goals in 100 matches in all competitions earned him rave reviews in the German media, as Musiala was called up for the UEFA EURO 2020 by coach Joachim Low.
Yet he did not forget about his formative years in England, where he grew up and learnt some tips and tricks that made him great.
“In the England youth teams you learn different things than you do playing in Germany,” Musiala said. “I took home many messages. It was a different environment in the England youth setup. They set great store by individual technique and one‑on‑one play. To play with freedom was the motto at the time. That is what inspired me and will stay with me for all of my footballing life,” added Musiala for “The Guardian”.
Indeed, his technique made him the player with the largest number of dribbles at Qatar 2022, 12, three less than the all-time record set by Nigeria’s Jay-Jay Okocha in 1994, but also set the record for the largest number of dribbles by a teenager at the FIFA World Cup.
Sure, Musiala is still a long way to go in becoming one of the biggest stars, but his potential is huge. And England will definitely feel that he is the one that got away.