Bob Lenarduzzi says soccer phenom Alphonso Davies catches your eye the first time you watch him play.
Lenarduzzi, the Vancouver Whitecaps team president, says Davies has the talent to justify the record-breaking deal confirmed Wednesday that will send the Canadian 17-year-old midfielder from Major League Soccer to German Bundesliga giant Bayern Munich.
“You can hear the stadium start to pause when he gets the ball in our end because the anticipation is that he’s going to go coast to coast. And sometimes he does,” Lenarduzzi told media Wednesday.
“I think he’s a very rare individual because he’s got the whole package. He’s got the mental makeup and the ability.”
Multiple major soccer clubs were involved in weeks-long talks about acquiring the Canadian international midfielder, Lenarduzzi said, and there was a “significant difference” between the first offer and the final offer.
Interest from various clubs grew over the three weeks of talks as Davies continued to produce highlight reel-worthy goals on the field, he added.
In the end, Bayern Munich agreed to a transfer deal that the Whitecaps have said could amount to more than US$22 million, the most ever received by an MLS club in the league’s 23-year history. Bayern Munich has said Davies’ contract runs through 2023.
🗣️ @Brazzo: "@AlphonsoDavies is a huge talent. At just 17, he has a bright future ahead of him. Alphonso is very talented and it comes as no surprise that many other top clubs were after him." #MisSanMia pic.twitter.com/5fLu7Kbbf8
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) July 25, 2018
The previous MLS transfer record was set in 2008 when Spanish club Villarreal spent US$10 million to acquire striker Jozy Altidore from the New York Red Bulls.
Davies said he had always dreamed of the moment where he would sign with a world-renowned team.
“Now that the dream has come true, the work continues as always,” Davies, who was in Philadelphia to sign the deal before Bayern played a friendly against Juventus on Wednesday night, said in a statement.
“I have to keep pushing and keep striving, and also keep being me on the field.”
Known for his blazing speed and uncanny ability to maintain control of the ball, Davies has worked his way up to Vancouver’s starting lineup. He has eight assists and three goals in league play this season, and is scheduled to play in the MLS all-star game in Atlanta next month.
He’s eligible to join Bayern when the international transfer window re-opens in January 2019 and will play out the rest of the MLS season in Vancouver.
Keeping Davies as part of the ‘Caps team was never a sticking point during negotiations, said Whitecaps chief operating officer Rachel Lewis, who was involved in the talks.
“(Bayern) were excited to have him continue to play and obviously we think that’s the best thing for our club,” she said. “I think they shared our vision that having him on the field and contributing meaningful minutes was the best thing for his development.”
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 25, 2018
Bayern has won a record 28 German soccer titles, and has captured the UEFA Champions League five times.
The club’s sporting director, Hasan Salihamidzic, posted about his newest player on Twitter, calling Davies a “huge talent.”
“At just 17, he has a bright future ahead of him. Alphonso is very talented and it comes as no surprise that many other top clubs were after him,” Salihamidzic said.
Davies — affectionately known by his teammates and Whitecaps staff as Fonzie — joined the Whitecaps residency program in 2015. Because he’s a “homegrown player,” the team will keep the entire transfer fee.
The money will be invested back into the sporting side of the club and staff already have their eyes on a few players they want to sign, Lenarduzzi said.
He added some of the cash will go toward developing young talent.
“We’ve made our way through that process. Alphonso is the jewel of that. And for us, I think it’s actually to accelerate that side of it and ensure that if there is another Alphonso Davies out there, we want to unearth him,” he said.
This isn’t the first time Bayern Munich has picked up a Canadian teen.
The club acquired Calgary-born Owen Hargreaves in 1997, when he was 16 years old. He went on to play seven seasons with Bayern, plus five more with Manchester United and Manchester City in the English Premier League.
Internationally, Hargreaves suited up for England, playing on both the 2002 and 2006 World Cup squads.
Davies has already made his mark on the Canadian men’s team, after being called up to play in July 2017 shortly after he received his Canadian citizenship.
At the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, the rising star became the youngest player to ever score for team Canada and the youngest scorer in the tournament’s history. He took home the Golden Boot and Best Young Player honours from the event.
Alphonso Davies vs Orlando City.
In this MLS-Game the Canadian went off, defenders just couldn't stop him.
Scored 1 Goal and provided 3 Assists.
And this kid is just 17-Years old.
Bayern's next big thing? 🔥
— Complaxes (@Complaxes) July 21, 2018
Earlier this year, Davies made a passionate speech on behalf of the United Bid to the FIFA World Congress in Russia ahead of the vote for the 2026 World Cup.
He described being born in a refugee camp in Ghana after his parents fled the Liberian civil war. The family later immigrated to Canada and eventually settled in Edmonton.
Davies told the crowd that his dream is to someday compete in soccer’s biggest tournament, perhaps even in his hometown.
“I’ve played matches in Mexico, Canada and the United States. The people of North America have always welcomed me. If given the opportunity, I know they’ll welcome you.”
The United Bid, featuring Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, won the bid to host the tournament.
Lenarduzzi has said that he got goosebumps watching Davies speak.
He’s a fine young man who has been successful at every level he’s played at, the Whitecaps president said on Wednesday.
“He’s got the ability but he’s also got the personality and the temperament to shine at this level as well,” he said.
“I think the ceiling is endless.”
–With a file from the Canadian Press.