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Vancouver faces an uphill battle to keep Alphonso Davies

Written by Will Parchman


Alphonso Davies is 16 years old. So we start there.

The specifics of my life at that age are muddled over time, but fending off contracts worth many thousands of dollars was not in my personal equation. If it had been, it would’ve been a confusing cocktail to dump into a story already confused enough as it was. At least on a personal level, no 16-year-old has any idea what they’re doing, other than blithely careening through life as one does. Pushing Grown Man decisions onto those feeble-enough shoulders is not ideal.

This is the central issue confronting Davies in 2017. You may think it’s settling into the first team with Vancouver and proving he belongs. And there is some truth to that. But he does belong, and we know this already. Davies’ future is something like buying a sapling to plant in the front yard and expecting it to prove to you it can grow over time. You know it can. It’s simply a matter of providing it water and light and tilled soil.

This isn’t the case for every 16-year-old prospect, or even half of them or maybe even a smaller sliver of a minority of them. Spend any amount of time watching Davies with the first team and you know he’s different, and this is perhaps an uncomfortable admission for a populace so used to watching young players burn hotly and then supernova before reaching maturity. Spaniards, for instance, feel little compulsion to rein back their expectations of late teen prospects because the production tree is a load-bearing fruit producer dropping high-end talents onto the red Spanish soil on a monthly basis. The U.S. and especially the Canadian tree is a fragile thing bowing at the wind, and whatever is fragile is guarded with spears. Oftentimes with too many spears.

And so it’s uncomfortable for Canadians to admit, perhaps, that Davies’ development is coming with the inevitability of a German train schedule. I can’t tell you how good he’ll ultimately be, I can tell you he’ll be MLS starter quality for the duration of his career at the very least. But what’s even more uncomfortable? The biggest question on Davies’ plate at the moment is not any of this, but rather how long the Whitecaps are able to keep him.

Reports out of the UK this week suggest Davies’ profile is rising in the Premier League. He’s reportedly being “watched,” which is a fairly innocent term all things considered, by Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool. Of course we know this is not particularly novel news. Last October, Manchester United’s Americas scout Jorge Alvial watched Davies in person against the Seattle Sounders.

And Davies’ performance would have done little to dissuade him. Davies registered a key pass five minutes into the game, snapped off a pair of shots on target and turned the otherwise speedy Oniel Fisher into a sentient parking cone to earn a penalty.

The MLS transfer market is a bubble unto itself, which behooves European leagues to buy early and often if they like what they see. Fabian Castillo was a bonafide league star when he left FC Dallas in 2016, and Trabzonspor in the Turkish first division bought him for $4 million. That is, by most any global measure, a bargain verging on outright theft. So it goes for young talent stepping outside the league’s borders. If Castillo can be had that cheaply, what could Davies’ fee reasonably be?

Low. It will be low. If Davies was in more highly evaluated feeder leagues in South America with the same skill set, his premium would be significantly higher. I have no hesitation in this. Whether he stays in Vancouver long term or flies the coop? That we’ll have to wait for.

In any case, the next year or two in Davies’ progression should be an intriguing watch. Davies will continue to garner these “watching” stories, continue to impress on the field, continue to score, continue to prompt wonderment about his future. And therein lies the single most interesting facet about Davies’ career. It isn’t where his talent is going. It’s where he’s going.

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