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video subtitles, Euro 2024: BBC Sport explores Jamal Musiala’s childhood in London

  • Author, Nizaar Kinsella
  • Role, Football news reporter at BBC Sport

Jamal Musiala’s exceptional performances for Germany have added sparkle to Euro 2024, but for England it is a bittersweet moment.

Social media is awash with images of Musiala in the famous Three Lions shirt celebrating goals and trophies with midfielder Jude Bellingham during his youth career.

There may have been a fear of missing out (FOMO) in the English football world, as the 21-year-old scored two goals in his first three games and was named Man of the Match in the 5-1 win over Scotland on the opening day.

National coach Julian Nagelsmann calls on the “brilliant” Musiala to continue playing “as if he were with his friends on a small pitch in Germany or England”.

But this combination of English and German engineering was unknown to the German Football Association for a long time.

Kevin Betsy, assistant coach of Cambridge United, coached Musiala in three age groups of the English youth team.

Betsy told BBC Sport: “I watched Jamal at an U12 tournament in Brighton and he was up front for Chelsea.

“He was tiny, one of the smallest players on the pitch, but he had amazing intelligence, understanding of the game, speed in the first five meters and dribbling skills.

“As I was driving home I realised I had seen something special. We had not selected any underage players for England’s first under-15 age group, but with him and Jude we argued that we would make an exception.

“I don’t think Germany knew much about him or his level until he played against them and put in an exceptional performance in the game.”

Betsy says Musiala went to the U16s with Germany but did not enjoy his first training camp there and returned to England for U17 football.

“Once again he captained England against Germany and put in an exceptional performance against them,” he added.

“After the game, their youth coach said, ‘I didn’t know he was that good.’ That game and Jamal’s move to Bayern probably gave Germany the upper hand.”

Image source, Corpus Christi School

Image description, During his school days, Musiala met Gareth Southgate, then head of the elite development department of the English Football Association (FA).

Musiala was born in Stuttgart, one of the host cities of the 2024 European Championship, and was also eligible to play for Nigeria through his father Daniel Richard.

His mother Carolin got an Erasmus study place in Southampton, after which the family moved to England.

Shortly after his arrival, he moved to City Central FC in Southampton. His first manager, Rosh Bhatti, posted on Facebook in January 2011: “Saints could sign a player so talented that I am confident enough to say that despite being only seven years old, he will one day become a professional footballer.”

Southampton wanted Musiala but lost him in a three-way battle with Arsenal and Chelsea – as the Blues benefited from his mother getting a job in Surrey after completing her studies, close to the club’s training ground in Cobham.

Musiala then attended Corpus Christi School in New Malden and his personal development was overseen by PE teacher Tony Mesourouni, who said: “He was not fluent in English when he came here, but sport helped him settle into school – he showed great adaptability and always worked hard.”

“He was a member of the chess club, did martial arts and learned to read and write English so well that shortly before his departure he was able to write a wonderful poem about his life as a footballer.

“I still tell Jamal’s story to the children today. He gave 110% in everything and it gives me goosebumps when I see where he is now.”

The poem, titled “Moment,” reads: “I’m sitting in the car. I look out the window. It’s cold outside – it’s winter. But I’m sweating. I’m nervous. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Suddenly the car stops. I close my eyes. I take a deep breath. I’m no longer nervous. I’m happy. I know what I have to do. My dad opens the door and says, ‘Good luck on your first trial at one of the best clubs in the Premier League!’ I’m playing like never before.”

Image source, Corpus Christi School

Image description, Musiala was born in Stuttgart but moved to Southampton as a child

Through school football he met Gareth Southgate, who was then Head of Elite Development at the FA.

Mesourouni added: “We have won Premier League tournaments at the Emirates, Anfield and Wembley – where Jamal played for Fulham, Brentford and AFC Wimbledon.

“Gareth probably doesn’t remember the first time he met Jamal, but he held a training session before our final and told me that our number eight Jamal was a ‘very good player’.

“Then we went on a tour of Wembley – the kids were being told about Geoff Hurst’s hat-trick – and Jamal said he wanted to do it. He scored four goals and we won the final.”

Southgate next met Musiala when he was officially called up to the England national team at the age of 13 and began playing football more seriously at Chelsea.

Around this time, in 2014, Musiala also moved to Whitgift School, a fee-paying school in Croydon, whose football director Andrew Martin added: “We are a very strong sporting school. We first saw Jamal play against us in the semi-final of a sixth form cup competition. We lost 9-4 and he scored four goals.”

“He was quiet, humble and polite, but he had incredible confidence on the pitch – probably the most confidence I’ve ever seen in a boy. He was an absolute number nine for us and hat-tricks were commonplace.

“But there was one game that stuck in my mind when he was being put under pressure by a much bigger team in Peterborough. At half-time he came to me angrily and I said, ‘Just keep at it and the chances will come.’ Then the second half came and he scored two goals.”

He left school after scoring 122 goals in three years, playing in four national finals and winning three of them.

Image source, Kevin-Betsy School

Image description, Kevin Betsy coached Musiala during his time in the English youth team

Several factors then led to Musiala leaving Chelsea and eventually England.

Six months earlier, Bayern Munich had their eye on winger Callum Hudson-Odoi, who belonged to the same FA Sports agency as Musiala.

During the talks about Hudson-Odoi, Bayern also talked about the then 16-year-old Musiala, who was available for a severance payment of £170,000, as Chelsea had lost the battle to sign him as a professional on his 17th birthday.

Musiala felt Bayern offered him better opportunities and within a year made his first-team debut, becoming the youngest player the club has ever had.

His teammates at FC Bayern encouraged him to play for Germany. The then coach Joachim Löw, who won the World Cup in 2014, is also said to have played a key role.

Disappointing? Yes. But there is no bitterness because England is proud to be part of this history.

“Gareth had a really close relationship with Jamal from a young age, but there was never any pressure,” added former England youth coach Betsy.

“These families trust you with their child, there is a duty of care. It’s all about love, appreciation and making the most of the time you have with them.”

Musiala always spoke German as his native language and had less travel time and competition after joining the team in 2021.

Those close to him say he felt German and, now that he is the star of a tournament in his own country, perhaps this was always his destiny.

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