Jamal Musiala was already Bayern Munich's youngest-ever player when he became their youngest scorer. The 17-year-old's former coach tells DW about Musiala's path to prominence and his preference for England over Germany.
One of the first text messages Jamal Musiala received after he became the youngest goal scorer in Bayern Munich's history was from his old school teacher. "Congratulations Jamal, the first of hundreds to come," the text read. Musiala swiftly replied with a thumbs up emoji and the words "Thanks, Sir."
Andrew Martin, 40, is the director of Football at Whitgift, a fee-paying school in the south London suburb of Croydon, where he coached Musiala for three years between 2013 and 2016. But to Musiala, Martin will always be "sir."
"Even though he's playing for Bayern Munich, he still calls me sir," Martin told DW. "That just tells you everything you need to know about the lad. He's so polite, so respectful, and I just wanted him to know that we're all watching his career with interest and we're all so proud of him. I'm convinced he will go on to score hundreds of goals in his career, whether that's at Bayern Munich or elsewhere."
The chances look good. Musiala was a 73rd-minute substitute for Serge Gnabry at the Allianz Arena on Friday night, and his calm and assured finish completed a 8-0 devouring of Schalke in the Bundesliga curtain-raiser. In June, he became Bayern's youngest ever player and three months on he's also their youngest ever scorer. All by the age of 17.
Musiala isn't one to get carried away though. He's a quiet boy whose grit and determination to make it at the top level have been obvious for a long time — but his raw ability as a goalscorer is what made him stand out at youth level.
"I was fortunate enough to coach Jamal for the three years he was at Whitgift. When he first arrived, he was a small and slight lad, and someone who didn't strike you as having great amounts of confidence. But as soon as you put him on a football pitch he comes alive," said Martin, a former player and coach for Premier League club Crystal Palace.
"He is an outstanding footballer and that was very obvious from an early age," Martin said. "He was predominantly a No. 9 and a prolific goalscorer. He would score 50+ goals for us a season, and he wasn't far off that mark at Chelsea. Technically outstanding, very skillful, and a player who can score all types of goals, inside and outside the box. And he's a great dribbler and likes to take players on, as he did against Schalke. He later became a No.10 and has become as much of a creator as a goalscorer.
"His all round demeanor sets him apart, though," Martin said. "He was always immaculately dressed for school and presented himself extremely well. And he would take that onto the football field, too: his conduct, his effort, his steely determination. Everything added up to him being the complete package."
Musiala has followed a similar path to Callum Hudson-Odoi, who also benefited from Martin's coaching at Whitgift and took his first steps toward a professional career with Chelsea. Unlike Hudson-Odoi, Musiala left Chelsea after three years and joined Bayern in 2019. But Bayern have recently renewed their interest in Hudson-Odoi, who almost made the move to Munich at the same time as Musiala.
England or Germany?
For Musiala, there's a more personal connection to Germany. He was born in Stuttgart in February 2003 and spent the first seven years of his life in Fulda, a small city near Frankfurt. It was only when his German mother and Nigerian father decided to move to London, that Musiala began to develop an affection for England.
Martin said the decision of whom to represent internationally had created "a real split" for Musiala, and — though Germany have been trying hard to convince him to represent Die Mannschaft — and he has played for Germany at the youth level — his heart is with the Three Lions.
"England has been his preference over Germany, and it appears that is still the case," Martin said. "He grew up as a footballer at Chelsea, and there he played with many other English players, so he's always felt more comfortable playing for England. When he played for Germany, he felt like an outsider purely because he wasn't on that circuit and he didn't know any of the boys."
Hudson-Odoi also went to Whitgift and joined Chelsea. He has stayed with the London club but is coveted by Bayern
Admiration for Bayern
Though Musiala prefers to represent England internationally, there is no doubt that he is relishing playing his club football in Germany. He could have taken another path altogether, with several major European clubs chasing him, but his affinity with Germany and admiration for Bayern made the offer of a move to the German and European champions impossible to resist.
"When Jamal moved to Bayern, there were numerous clubs interested in him," Martin said. "Jamal would often be top scorer or player of the tournament in many of the competitions he played in with Chelsea, so naturally that attracted admiring glances from other clubs, including some of the best clubs in Spain.
"His mother is German and he always kept very close ties to Germany, going back for summer holidays. So, when the opportunity came along to go back to Germany and play for Bayern, that was a very big factor for him. It came as a surprise to the family that he would suddenly go back at 17, but he has a very close and supportive family and they left London with Jamal and went back to Germany."
It seems that Musiala has many admirers. When asked about his performance against Schalke, Bayern coach Hansi Flick couldn't hide his delight. With a smile, he said "Jamal has shown with this goal what an amazing talent he is. We will help him reach his potential." From Andrew Martin to Hansi Flick, it appears Musiala is in safe hands.