Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Jamal Musiala: From England youngster to Germany star – BBC


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Euro 2024: BBC Sport explores Jamal Musiala’s childhood in London
Jamal Musiala's exceptional performances for Germany have lit up Euro 2024, but it is bittersweet for England.
Social media is rife with pictures of Musiala in the famous Three Lions jersey celebrating goals and trophies with midfielder Jude Bellingham during his youth career.
England football may have felt FOMO, also known as the fear of missing out, as the 21-year-old scored twice in his first three matches and was named as player of the match in the 5-1 demolition of Scotland on the opening day.
Germany manager Julian Nagelsmann says the "brilliant" Musiala must keep playing "like he is on a small pitch in Germany or England with his friends”.
Yet, this joint piece of English and German engineering was once unknown to the German Football Association.
Cambridge United assistant manager Kevin Betsy managed Musiala in three age groups in England's youth set-up.
Betsy told BBC Sport: "I scouted Jamal at an Under-12s tournament in Brighton, and he was up front for Chelsea.
"He was tiny, one of the smallest players on the pitch, but he had amazing intelligence, game understanding, quickness over the first five metres, and dribbling ability.
"I realised I saw something special when driving home. We weren't selecting any underage players for England's first Under-15s age group, but with him and Jude, we put forward our case to make an exception.
"I don't think Germany knew much about him or his level until he faced them and was exceptional in the match."
Betsy says Musiala went away with Germany at Under-16 level but did not enjoy his first camp there and returned to England for Under-17s football.
"Again, he faced Germany as England's captain and was exceptional against them," he added.
"After the game, their youth coach said, 'I didn't realise he was that good'. That game, and Jamal joining Bayern, probably gave Germany the upper hand."
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While at school, Musiala met Gareth Southgate, who was then head of elite development at the FA
Musiala was born in Stuttgart, one of the host cities for Euro 2024, and through his father, Daniel Richard, was also eligible for Nigeria.
His mother Carolin achieved a place on an Erasmus course in Southampton, which moved the family to England.
Shortly after he arrived he joined City Central FC in Southampton. His first coach, Rosh Bhatti, posted on Facebook in January 2011 that “Saints may be signing a player who is so talented that I am confident enough to say he will become a professional footballer one day despite being just seven years old".
Southampton wanted Musiala but lost him in a three-way battle with Arsenal and Chelsea – as the Blues benefited from his mother getting a job in Surrey after her studies, close to the club’s Cobham training ground.
Musiala then joined Corpus Christi school in New Malden and his personal development was overseen by PE teach Tony Mesourouni, who said: “He didn’t speak fluent English when he came here, but sport helped him settle into the school – he showed great resilience to adapt and always worked hard.
“He was part of the chess club, did martial arts and learned to read and write English to the point where he could write a wonderful poem about his life in football just before leaving.
"I still tell the kids today about Jamal’s story; he put 110% into everything, I get goosebumps seeing where he is now.”
The poem titled ‘Moment’ reads: "I am sitting in the car. I'm looking out of the window. Outside it's cold – it's wintertime. But I'm sweating. I'm nervous. I don't know what will happen. Suddenly the car stops. I close my eyes. I take a deep breath. I'm not nervous anymore. I'm happy. I know what I've to do. My dad opens the door and says 'Good luck for your first trial for one of the best Premier League clubs!' I'm playing like never before."
Musiala was born in Stuttgart but moved to Southampton as a child
Through his school football, he first met Gareth Southgate, who was then head of elite development at the FA.
Mesourouni added: “We won Premier League tournaments at the Emirates, Anfield and Wembley – where Jamal represented Fulham, Brentford and AFC Wimbledon.
“Gareth probably wouldn’t remember that first meeting with Jamal but delivered a training session before our final and told me our number eight Jamal is a ‘very good player’.
"We then had a tour of Wembley – Geoff Hurst’s hat-trick was being explained to the kids – and Jamal said he wanted to replicate it – he went on to score four and we won the final.”
Southgate next met Musiala when he formally entered England's set-up at age 13, when his football at Chelsea became more serious.
Around this time, in 2014, Musiala also joined Whitgift School, a fee-paying school in Croydon, whose director of football Andrew Martin added: “We’re a very strong sports school. We first saw Jamal play against us in the semi-final of a Year Six cup competition. We lost 9-4, and he scored four goals.
“He was quiet, unassuming and polite but had sheer belief in himself on the pitch – it’s probably the biggest confidence I’ve seen in a boy. He was an out-and-out number nine for us and hat-tricks were commonplace.
“But there was a game that stuck out to me, where he was getting kicked by a much bigger team in Peterborough – he came to me at half-time upset, and I said ‘just stick at it and the chances will come'. The second half came, and he scored two goals.”
He left the school, scoring 122 goals in three years, playing in four national finals, and winning three.
Kevin Betsy coached Musiala during his time in the England youth set-up
Multiple factors then began driving Musiala away from Chelsea and eventually England.
Six months earlier, Bayern Munich had been targeting winger Callum Hudson-Odoi, who was part of the same agency as Musiala.
During talks for Hudson-Odoi, Bayern also discussed Musiala, then 16, available for a £170,000 compensation fee, as Chelsea lost the battle to get him on to professional terms on his 17th birthday.
Musiala felt Bayern offered him a better pathway and he made his first team debut within a year, becoming the club's youngest ever player in the process.
His Bayern team-mates encouraged him to play for Germany. Then-manager Joachim Low, who won the World Cup in 2014, is also believed to have been key.
Disappointing? Yes. But there is no bitterness as England are proud to be part of the story.
“Gareth had a really strong relationship with Jamal from a young age, but there was never any pressure,” former England youth coach Betsy added.
“These families trust you with their child, there is a duty of care. It’s just love, appreciation, and making the best of your time with them.”
Musiala always spoke German as his first language and enjoyed less travel time and competition after choosing Die Mannschaft in 2021.
Those close to him say he felt more German and perhaps, now that he is starring at a home tournament, this was always his destiny.
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