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The Challenge That Follows Alphonso Davies's Transfer to Bayern Munich

Alphonso Davies's MLS-record transfer to Bayern Munich is a boon for the league, his current club and player, but there's a challenge that follows for the selling entity after it takes its victory lap.

Alphonso Davies will move to Bayern Munich after the 2018 MLS season concludes in a landmark transfer for the league. The 17-year-old was scouted and developed by the Vancouver Whitecaps and rose through the club's ranks before catching the eye of the European giant, which will pay an MLS-record base transfer fee of $13 million (with the potential for it to rise even higher) to secure Davies for the foreseeable future.

Davies responded to the move with a highlight-reel double against Minnesota United over the weekend, displaying the skill and promise that captured Bayern's attention and made him such a hot commodity. 

Now comes the hard part for the Whitecaps that all teams must encounter after a major sale: reinvesting the transfer windfall and proving to its fans that there's reason to turn out despite dealing away its top attraction.

We discuss the transfer and its fallout–in addition to first impressions of D.C. United's Audi Field and thoughts on the International Champions Cup's staying power–on the latest edition of the Planet Fútbol Podcast. You can listen to the show in full in the podcast embed below (the Davies discussion begins at the 40:38 mark), and you can subscribe to and download the show on iTunes here:

Here is a selection of our conversation regarding Davies's transfer to Bayern:

BRIAN STRAUS: Another story line, of course, is the transfer of Alphonso Davies and what that means for the future of the league. We all understand why it's important. We all understand why being part of the player market is important in terms of development, and incentive, and revenue, and all of these things that help build the league and help build both a soccer culture and a development culture. All of that’s vital.

At the same time—if you have not seen what Alphonso Davies did to Minnesota this weekend, get to a computer and watch—MLS is in a situation where this guy is worth paying to see. He’s phenomenal. This is the reason you get up off your ass and put some pants on and come to the stadium, to see this guy. And they're going to get rid of him.

GRANT WAHL: True. Is the implication that you’re not wearing pants when you’re at home?

BS: I mean, anything goes.

GW: Sorry. A $13 million base transfer fee from Bayern to Vancouver for Alphonso Davies, just 17 years old. We are going to get to see him in the second half of the season because he’s not 18 yet and won’t be transferring until January 1. But I’m very curious to see if he ends up playing at all for Bayern Munich. Does he go out on loan? But really, as you said, he is must-see TV right now and I wouldn’t say that about anyone else on that Vancouver roster.

BS: But it’s not just must-see TV. It’s must-see in person.

GW: Yeah.

BS: To see Kylian Mbappé in person—I wrote about it, and gushed about it that night on the pod—but to see him run down that diagonal ball from Paul Pogba in the (World Cup) final was exhilarating. To be there in the stadium and to see a player like that, with that kind of speed, grace, and power, you have to see it in person.

I’m not proposing any solution and I’m not complaining about anything. Maybe it’s even pointless too say it. But MLS is at this weird inflection point where, look, you’ve got make the sale. You’ve got to do it, right? And the sale could approach many millions more than $13 million, with incentives and all that kind of stuff. They’re talking about $20 million or whatever. I get why all of that’s important. And hopefully the league and the teams are able to communicate that with their fan bases, many of whom are hardcore soccer fans but many of whom are not. And that’s OK.

Yes, players leave the Pirates or the Royals or, I don’t know, name small baseball teams. The Brewers? And they go to the Yankees and the Red Sox. And that’s something people are used to. But they’re not leaving the country. They’re not leaving the league. When general sports fans, general sports media, wonder, “Wait, you want people to support this league and you want people to support this team, why are you selling the players who I’ll pay to see play?" That’s a real thing, too. So, this is just something the league will have to balance and be wary of, and appreciate and respect. … It’s more incumbent on these teams now to build those attachments so they can sell a player like Davies.

Fans don’t—$13 million is a lot of money, but if you just dump $13 million at midfield, I don’t know how many people are going to pay to come see that, at least more than once. Maybe one time, you want to see what $13 million looks like. But, you’re not going to get people to come to the stadium to see money. You have to give them a reason to come. And the biggest reason for people in Vancouver to go, unless they really have that deep attachment to the club, was Alphonso Davies.

GW: He’s just a fantastically promising player. I hope—I think this is the right move, whether he ends up playing at Bayern Munich or somewhere else in Europe, I guess we’ll see.