by Frank Linkesch (Kicker)

That stop, the quick and swift turn, the right-footed shot into the far corner: a brilliant move by a brilliant footballer. Jamal Musiala’s goal, which on May 27th in the penultimate minute of the season made Bayern Munich the German champion, resembles an explosion. An explosion of emotions. For the struggling team and the club, for the traveling fans. But above all, also for Musiala after difficult months, during which the young star seemed to have lost his lightness in the game.
At 20 years old, the attacking midfielder reaches 90 appearances in the Bundesliga as well as 23 in the Champions League and for the German national team. Even more significant than these mere statistics is his importance in Bayern’s game. If Musiala has a good day, so does Bayern. That’s why he has held a permanent position as number ten for quite some time. First under the guidance of coach Julian Nagelsmann, now with Thomas Tuchel. Something extraordinary must happen for Musiala not to play from the starting whistle. Like the last time on May 27th.

Musiala is a stroke of luck for Bayern and German football, a stroke of luck that wouldn’t have happened without politics. Born in Stuttgart, Musiala grows up in Fulda (in the state of Hessen), until his mother moves to England to study. Through Southampton, he ends up at Chelsea in 2011 at the age of 8, where his extraordinary talent is quickly discovered and developed. Rosh Bhatti, who discovered him as a rookie at Southampton, calls him a “natural born talent.” Without Brexit, Musiala probably would have remained in the roster of professionals overseas, but after the anticipation of Brexit, the Musiala family returns to Germany. This automatically brings Bayern into play, a club that knows and has had Musiala in its sights, but initially doesn’t believe they have a chance to acquire him. Ironically, at that time, the club was interested in Callum Hudson-Odoi, whose brother recommends Musiala. What a coincidence…

Musiala moves to Munich in the summer and manages to reach the first team of Hansi Flick within a year, passing through the U17, U19, and U23 teams. The current coach of the National Team calls up Musiala for the 2020 Champions League final, even though he doesn’t include him among the players who will eventually win it. However, from the start of the 2020/21 season, he lets him play regularly. Musiala’s ascent doesn’t stop. In March 2021, he decides to play for the German national team and makes his debut against the English shortly after under Joachim Loew.

When Julian Nagelsbach becomes the coach of Bayern in 2021, the then sports director Hasan Salijamdizic makes it clear that Musiala must play. He must become the face of the German record champion, a role model player for many years. He amazes with his refined technique, is strong in dribbling, and always looks towards the opponent’s goal during every stop. And he’s extremely ambitious, working hard on himself, for example, with extra goal-shooting sessions. “I want to become one of the best football players in the world,” he says shortly before the World Cup in Qatar in an interview. A conscious statement, as Musiala is shy off the field and down-to-earth, well protected and assisted by his manager and his mom, Carolin. He wants to focus on what’s essential: football. He only occasionally gives interviews.

The World Cup, for which he had high expectations, ends in bitter disappointment. Musiala doesn’t play poorly, sometimes even well, but he has bad luck with shots on goal. Germany unexpectedly exits after the group stage. A blow that makes Musiala “chew over,” even though he will only reveal it for the first time after the last match of the season and after the winning goal. At that moment, the already difficult situation is further complicated by the challenging times for Bayern, marked by a lot of unrest. It’s a first small crisis in Musiala’s career, one he’s entitled to, especially considering his age. On May 27th, coach Tuchel decides to put Musiala on the bench. When Bayern desperately needs a goal, he brings him in. During the training week leading up to the match, Musiala has tried this scenario many times, but he has never scored. In Cologne, the ball goes in. A goal that only the best in football can score. Bhatti is convinced: “Jamal will win the Ballon d’Or one day.” Perhaps first the European Golden Boy, though?



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