A few months ago, Jamal Musiala looked like England’s most prominent young prospect – but now he could line up against them at Wembley on Tuesday night.
In November of last year he made his England U21 debut and four days later scored his first goal. The Football Association and England coach Gareth Southgate breathed a collective sigh of relief, believing they had convinced the then 17-year-old, already Bayern Munich’s youngest Bundesliga player, to choose the Three Lions rather than his country of birth.
Musiala had played a year for most of their time at Chelsea academy, dazzling throughout the course, and represented England throughout their youth level. His only two games for Germany came as an U16 in 2018, and by his England U21 arc, even the German FA had thrown in the towel.
“He made it clear to us that he is currently considering his future with the England national teams,” said Meikel Schonweitz, their academy director’s coach, shortly after that first appearance, frustrated that one of the most brilliant talents in Europe have apparently escaped them.
Just six months later, Musiala, who turned 18 in February, could well line up against England at Wembley on Tuesday night thanks to a major role in the goal that prevented Germany from an embarrassing exit from the group stage of Euro 2020.
It would provide another rung on the ladder of a meteoric rise for the midfielder, but a Southgate can only wish it went under his watch. The English manager and the FA can live to feel beaten.
More than a year before his England Under-21 debut, Musiala left Chelsea academy to join Bayern in the summer of 2019, but not before German manager Joachim Low contacted him about convince him of his journey through youth football to the German national team.
Andrew Martin, head of football at Croydon Whitgift High School, which Musiala attended, mentored the talented young player during his school years – and said Air sports how Low’s decision to form a similar relationship played a major role in deciding his fate.
“I think it was a huge influence,” he said. “This is where England likely missed a turn, failing to convince them to stay and forge their own course.
“They saw him progress, whether it was six months, 12 months, two years. Not only did Bayern want him, but one of the most powerful countries in world football had already made it clear where he wanted him at the to come up.
“When Jamal was with us he had offers from England and Germany, I remember telling him about the decision when he was U15. At that point his preference was England.
“Playing on the English academy circuit, he knew the boys even if they came from Manchester City or Arsenal, they played regularly against each other and respected each other. He didn’t feel as comfortable or knew the players, and personal when he was with Germany.
“He moved to Germany when he was 16, he went to the German tours, spent a year playing in the German academy system, now he’s in the first team, so he’s used to playing in this system, in the Bundesliga every week, and unfortunately for England has moved away from the English system because he was a regular in the country. “
The quality of Musiala comes as no surprise to anyone, from Martin to the German manager Low to the English team. An old head on young shoulders has allowed him to compete with world-class professionals, and even bail out some of them against Hungary, the same month he is expected to graduate from sixth grade.
With that in mind, in such a crucial game, which has more personal meaning to the teenager than any of his teammates, there would also be few raised eyebrows if Low trusted him with a starting spot. at Wembley.
“It’s crazy, if he had stayed with us he would be leaving sixth this week,” Martin said. Air sports in preparation for Tuesday’s game. “He helps set up Germany’s equalizer to save them in the tournament, while his comrades have their last day at school.
“I texted him after the game against Hungary, telling him he had to beat England now – he responded by saying ‘I’ll do my best sir.’ It just shows the type of character that he is. he’s a german international and he always calls me sir he could call me whatever he wants and i wouldn’t mind his football speaks for itself but i can’t talk enough about him in as a character, he is an exceptional young man.
“With the way his mind works, he won’t think about the feeling. It will be just another game. A big game, which he wants to win for his country, but I don’t think he will consider it an L game. “England, where he grew up. Obviously there will be some affiliation, you don’t live somewhere for eight years and don’t develop an affiliation.
“There will be some kind of emotion there, but with the character that he is, that will stay in his mind.”
The view from Germany: it’s amazing
Sky Germany reporter Uli Kohler presented Tuesday’s game for Air sports and praised Musiala, who has long made headlines in Germany for a decisive season at Bayern where he scored six goals in just 870 minutes of Bundesliga football.
He said: “He’s amazing. Lothar Matthaus thinks he has to be in the starting XI against England. I’m not so sure. I think it’s a lot of pressure on his young shoulders. is the game of matches, England v Germany; that might be a bit too much for an 18-year-old, but you saw when he came off the bench what he could do.
“He was in the game right away – he’s having fun and he had two good times in five minutes …
“I remember a story where his mother had urged him to train on his birthday in an old Opel Corsa … all the other players had their Ferraris! Now he plays for the national team at the Euro at Wembley. It’s an incredible story! “