Jamal Musiala: The Bundesliga Boy Wunder
A lot has been made of Bayern Munich’s decision not to sign an out-and-out replacement for talismanic striker Robert Lewandowski in the summer. Instead, the goalscoring onus has been placed upon the entire attack at the Allianz Arena, with manager Julian Nagelsmann altering his set-up to suit a rather more fluid front-four.
While African Footballer of the Year Sadio Mane is operating in the position vacated by Lewandowski, it is teammate Jamal Musiala who has become indispensable to the Bavarians’ forward line. The 19-year-old has grasped the goalscoring mantle with both hands. Nicknamed Bambi by his teammates, Musiala is Bayern’s current top scorer in the Bundesliga with five goals in the opening eight games, while his 14 goal involvements across all competitions (seven goals, seven assists) is also a team high tally. Bambi has grown up fast.
5 – Bayern’s Jamal #Musiala has scored five goals on the first eight matchdays – the only teenager to have scored more goals on the first eight matchdays of a #Bundesliga season was Gerd Müller in 1965/66 (7). Magic. pic.twitter.com/PELS7DmOn5— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) October 3, 2022
Born in Stuttgart in 2003, Musiala was raised in Fulda before moving to England at the age of seven. After a spell at Southampton’s academy, the midfielder joined Chelsea aged 10 and enjoyed a rich footballing education at Cobham – shining in the Blues’ various youth teams. Yet in 2019, Musiala was headhunted by German champions Bayern Munich and opted to return to his homeland.
Aged 16, the midfielder hoped that the move to Bavaria would accelerate his development into professional football. And didn’t it just. Musiala became the jewel in the crown of Bayern’s esteemed Säbener Straße training complex in no time. The teenager scored just 16 minutes into his debut for the U17s and was promoted to the U19s by Christmas 2019 – just months after making the switch. Following eye-catching performances for the U19s, Musiala was asked to begin training with the first team in February 2020.
Upon football’s resumption in Germany after the coronavirus-enforced break, the teenager netted a brace on his debut for Bayern Munich II and showcased his ability as the Bavarians’ second string clinched the 3. Liga title. The midfielder’s meteoric rise was too good to ignore and in the penultimate game of the 2019-20 Bundesliga season, Musiala came off the bench to make his debut for the Bayern first team. At the time of his Bundesliga debut, aged just 17 years and 115 days old, the midfielder became Bayern’s youngest ever Bundesliga debutant – surpassing Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg’s previous record of 17 years and 251 days.
And from there, the records toppled one by one.
Following a full pre-season with the first team in 2020, Musiala was promoted to a permanent fixture in the squad under head coach Hansi Flick. And in the opening game of the 2020-21 campaign, the midfielder scored his first Bundesliga goal for Bayern in the 8-0 thrashing of Schalke – becoming FCB’s youngest ever scorer in the competition aged just 17 years and 205 days.
After numerous cameos as a substitute in the first few months of the season, the teenager reached another landmark moment in his career. Musiala made his first ever start for the Bavarians in their 1-1 draw with Werder Bremen in November 2020. And the attacking midfielder set tongues wagging across the country just a fortnight later, as he netted in the top-of-the-table clash between Bayern and Leipzig. The teenager collected the ball on the edge of the box, before taking a touch to compose himself and striking into the far corner past Peter Gulacsi. Yet it was only a sign of what was to come.
Musiala’s scintillating form had prompted a tug-of-war between the German and English federations as they tussled for his international allegiance. Despite turning out for England U21s in November 2020, then-Germany manager Joachim Löw travelled to Munich to meet Musiala in January 2021 – laying out a clear pathway for him to reach the senior side. And a month later, Musiala declared to play for Germany in what turned out to be a monumental month for the youngster.
The German scored his inaugural Champions League goal in the first leg of the Round of 16 clash with Lazio just two days before his 18th birthday – breaking the record as FCB’s youngest goalscorer in European competition. Musiala signed his well-deserved first ever professional contract at the beginning of March, tying him down to 2026 at the Allianz Arena in a deal that represented the Bayern hierarchy’s faith in his ability for the present and the future. The next month, he earned his first senior international cap following an appearance in Germany’s 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Iceland.
The teenager’s first full season in men’s football had been a resounding success. Musiala finished the 2020-21 season with 26 appearances in the Bundesliga, seven of which were starts. The attacking midfielder had six league goals to his tally and boasted a minutes per goal ratio of 145. While he also claimed his maiden Bundesliga winner’s medal.
After featuring in all but one of FCB’s last 10 Bundesliga games of the season, the youngster received a surprise call-up to the Germany squad for the delayed European Championship at the end of the season. Following substitute appearances against Hungary and England, the teenager became
Die Nationalmannschaft’s youngest debutant at a major international competition.
Opportunities were hard to come by for Musiala at the Allianz Arena last season under new manager Julian Nagelsmann. The attacking midfielder made just 12 starts in the Bundesliga – scoring five and assisting five. Yet there was little worry in Bavaria surrounding his development. The Germany international had already made 50 appearances for FCB by October 2021, four months prior to his 19th birthday. Musiala was consistently showing that his acceleration into the first team had been more than warranted with his superb performances.
While he has shone in sporadic minutes over the previous two seasons, the 19-year-old has gone from strength to strength in the opening stages of the current campaign. Musiala started the season in fine fettle, opening his account in Bayern’s 5-3 defeat of RB Leipzig in the DFL-Supercup. And the teenager has not looked back since. The Germany international has scored five Bundesliga goals this season, the fourth-most of any player in the division. Musiala has also made four assists in the league – bettered only by Eintracht Frankfurt forward Randal Kolo Muani (five).
Nagelsmann’s shift in system has seen the teenager excel alongside Bayern’s equally-explosive attackers Mane, Leroy Sane and Thomas Muller. The quartet’s interchanging positions has made the Bavarians impossible to second guess in the post-Lewandowski era. FCB attack at break-neck speed as they seek to outnumber opposition defences. This has enabled Musiala to feature more prevalently in the final third and he has averaged 8.6 touches per 90 in the opposition box this term – an increase on his 6.6 per 90 average last season.
And when the 19-year-old has found himself in those advanced positions, the result has been deadly. Of players to have played at least 500 minutes of league action in 2022-23, Musiala’s average of a goal involvement every 65 minutes is the highest in the Bundesliga and the fourth-most of any player in Europe’s top five leagues.
Musiala has spearheaded Bayern’s multi-pronged attack, becoming a vital cog in Nagelsmann’s starting line-up. The fleet-footed midfielder has been involved in 14 goals in all competitions this season, which is already more than he managed in 40 games last year (13). The midfielder also ranks top in the Bundesliga for open play sequence involvements that have led in a shot (60), while only Vincenzo Grifo (32) has tallied more chances and secondary chances created in the German top flight this season than Musiala (29).
The most effective skillset in Musiala’s repertoire is his ability when operating in tight spaces. The teenager glides past defenders, alike his namesake Bambi. The 19-year-old will often skip past challenges with his mazy footwork and leave the opposition for dead. The Germany international has averaged a dribble success rate of 58% this season, the third-most of players to have attempted 15 or more dribbles in the Bundesliga. What sets Musiala apart is his ability to wriggle past a sea of defenders when the ball seems all-but-lost – something which has been invaluable to Bayern’s attacks this season. The current Bayern set-up allows the teenager to make elusive runs and pick up the ball in the half-spaces. He is then able to use his unorthodox dribbling ability to kick-start the deadly Bayern surges forward.
It has been an uncharacteristically slow start to the season for Bayern. FCB currently occupy third spot in the Bundesliga and are four points off surprise league leaders Union Berlin after nine games. Yet as the inquest in Bavaria surrounding their inadequate start to the campaign goes on, there is certainly one positive to take from this term. The form of Musiala. The talented teenager has become crucial to club and country with the World Cup on the horizon, and his reputation only seems to be growing. From Germany-to England-to Germany again, Bambi has found his feet.
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