Scott Stinson: Canada’s Alphonso Davies set to make history in Champions League final

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After a perfunctory win over plucky Lyon on Wednesday, Bayern Munich will meet Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League final on Sunday. It will be the first time that a player who represents Canada internationally takes the field in a men’s Champions League final. It is history. Did I mention Davies is a teenager?

The Champions League final is such a big match that it has no equivalent on this continent or any other. The annual competition pits the top teams in Europe’s leagues against each other in a schedule that is concurrent to domestic play. Interrupted by the pandemic, it has been finished in a sprint in Portugal over the past couple of weeks.

“It’s the biggest stage in club football,” says Kristian Jack, soccer analyst for TSN. “And I say that not just for European football, but football around the world.”

The World Cup will always have a bigger profile, but Jack notes that club football long ago passed the international game in terms of quality. There are more resources, better coaching, and a deeper accumulation of playing talent on the best teams.

“So, that makes this game the pinnacle of all, because there’s no better club football in the world than the European game. It’s where the best players play,” Jack says. “This is the biggest competition in the world where players like Alphonso and others are evaluated the most, because they are challenged the most by the best players.”

Junior high student Alphonso Davies at St. Nicholas Soccer Academy in Edmonton. Handout

The Davies story has been well told, but a brief recap: Born in Ghana in a refugee camp for Liberians fleeing a civil war, Davies came to Edmonton with his family when he was five years old. He quickly became a soccer prodigy and was playing for the Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer when he was just 15 years old. He became a Canadian citizen at 17 and almost immediately started playing for the men’s national team — the path decidedly not taken years earlier by Owen Hargreaves, another teenage soccer phenom, who spurned Canada to represent England internationally. Davies’ play in MLS and the Canadian side, at such a young age, attracted interest from a number of European clubs and the Whitecaps sold his rights to Bayern Munich in 2018 for what could end up being the richest transfer deal in MLS history at more than US$20-million.

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