Meet midfielder Jamal Musiala who rejected England's team for Germany

The south London schoolboy who is Germany’s next superstar: Meet midfielder Jamal Musiala, 19, who grew up in Croydon and represented England at youth level – but rejected the Three Lions to play for country of his birth

  • Jamal Musiala moved to England from Germany when he was 7 with his family 
  • The footballer represented England at U15, U16, U17 and U21 level
  • He then joined Bayern Munich in 2019 and made his breakthrough in 2020
  • The 19-year-old has has opted to play for his country of birth in the World Cup
  • Click here for the latest World Cup 2022 news, fixtures, live action and results

Few would have thought just two years ago that Jamal Musiala with his light frame, medium height and innocent demeanour that earned him the nickname ‘Bambi’ would become one of the key Germany players for the 2022 World Cup. 

The 19-year-old is considered one of the greatest prospects in world football having flourished for European giants Bayern Munich since breaking through in 2020 – and he will have a chance to show his talent on the biggest stage today when the Germans kick off their Group E campaign against Japan.

The teenage sensation, following a stellar season start with Bayern Munich where he scored nine goals and delivered six assists so far, is expected to be Germany’s conductor in attack, operating between central midfield and the front line.

His pace, passing, creative play and scoring ability has quickly drawn comparisons with other big names, with former Germany captain Lothar Matthaeus drawing parallels to Argentina great Lionel Messi.

Musiala, who moved from Germany to England when he was seven with his family, cut his teeth in England as a youngster, running through the national youth system all the way to the England Under-21 before moving to Bayern in 2019.

But Musiala, who is close friends with England superstar Jude Bellingham, has opted to play for his country of birth in the World Cup, dealing a massive blow to coach Gareth Southgate’s England team.

‘It wasn’t an easy decision for me. I have a heart for Germany and a heart for England. Both hearts will keep on beating,’ Musiala told The Athletic after confirming his allegiance.

Jamal Musiala of Bayern Munich shoots the ball during a training session at Saebener Strasse training ground in April this year

He went through the national youth system all the way to the England Under-21 before moving to Bayern in 2019

Here the football sensation is pictured with his family at Allianz Arena on May 8, 2022 

Musiala (bottom row, second right) is close friends with Jude Bellingham (bottom row far left)

Southgate previously admitted in a press conference: ‘We’d have liked him to stay [with England] for certain. But when you’re training at Bayern Munich every day and you’re surrounded by Bayern Munich and German players, then that’s a little bit more challenging and of course his family have those strong ties.

‘We enjoyed working with him when he was in our junior teams. He was a really nice boy to work with. We knew he was going to be, and he is, a good player.’

But on Monday Musiala credited his England youth period for helping him develop his creative game that has quickly turned him into one of the rising stars of the sport.

‘I think a comparison with Messi is something like an honour,’ Musiala told a news conference.

‘He plays at top level for so long and to be compared with him is a bit difficult. I just focus on me and what I can do better as Jamal and keep going.’

He has been carrying one piece of advice he got from his English coaches that has helped him become the player he is today.

‘I think in England you learn different things than in Germany. I took a lot with me. They used to say ‘play with freedom’,’ he said.

‘This is something I took with me in my career and this will remain with me.’

Musiala has credited his England youth period for helping him develop his creative game that has quickly turned him into one of the rising stars of the sport

Jamal Musiala posing during the official FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 portrait session on November 17, 2022 in Doha, Qatar

Born to a Nigerian father and German mother in Stuttgart, Musiala initially grew up in Fulda, central Germany, until his parents moved to Southampton when he was seven, as his mother Carolin was studying at the university. 

Searching for a local club, his father Rich turned up to Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium where he met Jazz Bhatti, who works for the Saints Foundation charity and also helps run the City Central club with his brother Rosh. 

Jazz suggested taking young Jamal along to Saturday morning coaching with Rosh. 

Musiala who according to reports could not speak English at the time, played for 10 minutes before Rosh made a phone call to his brother. 

‘Some of the stuff he was doing was ridiculous – I couldn’t believe that he was seven,’ he told the Telegraph.  

‘Everything we demonstrated, he would do better than us. He was a special person as well. In one game, he scored five goals very quickly but could see that some of his team-mates were upset they hadn’t scored. He then tried to make sure they all scored. They all did except one and he was so upset.

‘The kids loved him. They would hang around just to watch him train. He was with us for six months, but left an amazing legacy.’

Musiala was born to a Nigerian father and German mother in Stuttgart and played for Chelsea

Jamal Musiala of Chelsea took part in a wreath laying ceremony at the Menin Gate on December 12, 2014 in Ypres, Belgium

Musiala briefly played for the Saints academy, had a spell back in Germany before returning to London and at the age of eight joined Chelsea’s academy where he grew close to the family of fellow academy player Callum Hudson-Odoi, who is two years older.

He broke Hudson-Odoi’s goal-scoring record at Whitgift School in Croydon, the independent school which also is alma mater to Victor Moses.

Reports say he was also an excellent chess player and would even compose poems. 

Musiala represented England at U15, U16, U17 and U21 level. 

After eight years at Chelsea he joined Bayern in 2019, moving to Munich with his mother.

He made his professional debut for the Bavarians a year later and became the club’s youngest ever goal scorer with a strike against Schalke at the age of 17 years 205 days.

Musiala is a versatile player who can play practically any position in midfield.

He said he still gets messages about his decision to play for Germany instead of England and takes it as a compliment that fans are frustrated that he is not representing their country. 

Eli Dasa of Israel and Jamal Musiala of Germany battle for the ball during the international friendly match between Germany and Israel at PreZero-Arena on March 26, 2022 in Sinsheim, Germany

‘I think when I was younger it was always my dream to play at Wembley or being part of one of these big games’

‘From my time with England in the youth level, they have amazing talents and I was playing with many of them as well – the Under 21s, 19s,’ he said.

‘There was many players which can have an amazing career and I think England’s youth system is very good for that, to build on these talents and make sure they get better.

‘When you said (about) breaking hearts, some of my friends message me here and there when they see me saying I should have played for England and stuff.

‘We joke around but I think they’re still happy for my decision.

‘I’m sure some England fans won’t be happy but I think that means I’m doing good if it upsets some people that I didn’t choose their country.’

Musiala seamlessly flicked between German and English at a pre-match press conference in the bowels of Wembley in September – a stadium he dreamt of lining up at as a kid.

‘It’s kind of crazy to think about things like that,’ said Musiala, who came on as a stoppage-time substitute under the arch in last year’s Euro 2020 last-16 loss to England.

‘I think when I was younger it was always my dream to play at Wembley or being part of one of these big games. For me, it was not exactly where I was, I just loved playing football.

Musiala said choosing to play for Germany over England was not an easy decision 

‘That was my dream to be involved in such big games and be part of a squad where I can contribute a lot. I’m just happy where I am right now.’

Musiala, who was also eligible for Nigeria because of his father, said choosing to represent Germany was not an easy decision but the right one for someone who clearly has a lot of affection for England.

He still keeps in contact with the likes of Jude Bellingham and Tino Livramento and fondly remembers meeting Southgate as a kid.

‘That was at my primary school, Corpus Christi,’ he said. ‘I saw him there, I had a picture. It’s not on me right now, but we took a picture together. It was nice seeing him.’

But now it’s about the present and focusing on his game for Germany.  

Germany also play Spain and Costa Rica and are eager to make amends for their 2018 shock first round exit.

‘We have the quality to go far in this tournament,’ Musiala said. ‘We all go in with the mindset that we can win the title. We are well prepared and raring to go.’ 

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