When 16-year old Jamal Musiala left the Chelsea academy for Bayern, neither could have predicted how suddenly he would rise to stardom. It took him only about a year to make his professional debut, playing against Freiburg on the final day of the 2019/20 season. Fast forward three months, and there he was, celebrating his first Bundesliga goal. Quite the rise, isn't it?
Born in Germany, Musiala moved to England at the age of 7 and joined up with Chelsea soon after. He was one of the brightest stars at Cobham, making his U18 Premier League debut as a 16 year old. Jadon Sancho's move to Borussia Dortmund and his subsequent flourish set a precedent for other British stars. The likes of Rabbi Matondo and Jude Bellingham have also followed the German route. Indeed, Musiala wasn't the only youngster who moved to Bayern from Chelsea, with the defender Bright Arrey-Mbi also joining him in Bavaria.
Thomas Muller's footsteps
It hasn't taken long for Jamal Musiala to be tipped as the next best thing. After all, not every 17-year old scores for the champions of both, the Bundesliga and the Champions League. He has fitted into the squad well, and there's an air of excitement around him. For years, Bayern have had a fantastic presence in the form of Thomas Muller. The German occupies space very well, and has been a constant source of goals and assists over the years. Stepping into the shoes of a World cup winner is a bit too much to ask of a 17-year old, but Musiala is heading in that direction. He shares many attributes with a senior professional, and he couldn't have had a better role model to look up to.
The Champions League last 16 tie against Lazio provided a glimpse of that. With Muller missing, Musiala took his place in the starting lineup. He was excellent, and capped off his performance with a fine goal. He is certainly one of the most exciting teenagers in world football, and along with the likes of Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane, Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka and Alphonso Davies, he could form the backbone of the team for many years to come.
In fact, so highly rated he is, that there was a bit of a tussle for his international allegiance. Able to play for both Germany and England, he has played for the youth teams of both countries.
After quite the intrigue, he announced last week that he would be choosing Germany.
Both countries have formed young, dynamic teams. Germany, in particular, abandoned their ageing stars after the debacle that was the 2018 World Cup. It is an exciting prospect to consider Musiala combining with stars like Sane, Gnabry, Werner and Havertz, hunting down opposition teams in context.
For England, it is certainly a talent lost, but they have enough depth in the position. Mason Mount, Phil Foden, James Maddison and Jack Grealish are all vying for roles similar to Musiala's, and that is headache enough for Gareth Southgate.
Chelsea's loss is Bayern's gain
In recent years, Chelsea's academy has produced some excellent players, with midfield being a particularly burgeoning area. Frank Lampard integrated the likes of Mason Mount and Billy Gilmour. Conor Gallagher is excelling on loan at relegation strugglers West Bromwich Albion. Tino Anjorin is the next big one touted for success, and he already has made a handful of senior appearances, including a Champions League start. It is understandable, therefore, that Musiala didn't see a clear pathway.
He also left at a time where there was no certainty about whether the youth would be given a chance. Historically, Chelsea do not have the best track record in terms of integrating academy players into the squad. John Terry remains the ultimate success story, while it seemed like Ruben Loftus-Cheek would take that mantle. Ruben's cruciate injury set back his promise and he is out on loan at Fulham.
Indeed, it isn't just the blues who're guilty of this. Sancho and Rabbi Matondo both left Manchester City's academy. Another young winger, Jayden Braaf, left for the Serie A this January after frustration with the lack of progression. Manchester United and Arsenal have been better in that respect, but they have lost stars like Angel Gomes and Josh Dasilva to others. Sancho has set a sort of blueprint now. There are a number of players who have made this move recently, and more will follow. Even before this current crop, the Bundesliga has had a much better record of promoting youngsters. Christian Pulisic, Kai Havertz and Timo Werner - all at Chelsea - made their league debuts at the age of 17!
Indeed, in retrospect, Musiala's move makes perfect sense. His performances have reflected that. Chelsea may not think about it too much, considering the level of talent that keeps coming through the academy. But considering his progress, there might just be a twinge of regret. Bayern have a potential superstar now in their ranks, to add to the established superstars they already have!
Style of play
Musiala plays primarily as a number ten, occupying the space behind the striker. He is quite capable of playing as an outright striker too. Throughout his youth days, he has played in both roles from time to time. Stronger on the right foot, he can also strike well with his left. His slight frame and physique make him Dele Alli-esque according to the Bundesliga's website, which also mentions that he wants to add some muscle. Hansi Flick has used him on the left too, positioning him as an inverted winger who cuts inside to shoot with his stronger right foot. Having perfected his dribbling ability in England, he has developed into one of Bundesliga's best in that regard.
Musiala averages more than 10 dribbles per game, with a success rate just shy of 50%. That is a statistic which will surely improve with game time and experience. While he certainly shares attributes with Muller, his inverted wing position also makes him similar to Arjen Robben, who used to cut in from the left to shoot with his wand of a left foot. He also drops deeps to dictate play. He receives the ball between midfield and attack and plays passes to set up chances. A great success rate in passing speaks volumes about his ability.