Jamal Musiala became Germany's youngest-ever player at a major tournament when he came on against Hungary, making an immediate impact. His former coach told DW about Musiala's path from English talent to German star.
One of the first text messages Jamal Musiala received after he became the youngest goal scorer in Bayern Munich's history last season 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. Last June, Musiala became Bayern's youngest-ever player in the Bundesliga, aged just 17 years and 115 days. Ninety days later, he became their youngest-ever scorer.
And on Thursday, he became Germany's youngest-ever player at a major tournament, coming on as an 82nd-minute substitute for Robin Gosens before helping to set up Leon Goretzka's decisive equalizer.
Born in Stuttgart in February 2003, Musiala spent the first seven years of his life in Fulda, a small city near Frankfurt before moving to London with his German mother and Nigerian father. He represented England from under-15 to under-21 level but ultimately decided in February 2021 to represent Germany — much to the surprise of his former coach Martin.
"He grew up as a footballer at Chelsea, and there he played with many other English players, so he always felt more comfortable playing for England," he said. "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."
He's quickly settled into life with the Nationalmannschaft though, with experienced fullback Gosens telling a press conference this weekend:
"When I was 18, I was still hanging out with my friends and had nothing to do with professional football. Jamal is a really nice guy, very open and willing to learn. He is very down to earth and, if things carry on like this, he'll have a great career."
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," recalls Martin, a former player and coach for Premier League club Crystal Palace. "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."
That has certainly been the case in his first full season for Bayern Munich, in which he scored six goals in 27 appearances, plus his first Champions League goal in a 4-1 win away at Lazio. One day later, he officially declared for Germany.
"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. He later became a No.10 and has become as much of a creator as a goalscorer.
Musiala scored his first goal for Bayern at the tender age of 17 years, 6 months and 23 days against Schalke
"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.
"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."
Musiala has many admirers. When asked about his performance against Schalke, former Bayern and future Germany head 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 Joachim Löw to Hansi Flick, it appears Musiala is in safe hands. And he'll be looking to prove that when he returns to London with Germany to face England on Tuesday night.