FROM a refugee camp to the Champions League within the space of two decades – jet-heeled Alphonso Davies has one incredible story to tell.
The 19-year-old Canadian flying winger joined Bayern Munich for £17million in January, 2019 from Vancouver Whitecaps, the biggest fee ever paid for an MLS player.
And in the past year, he has showed it was money well spent as he blossomed into, arguably, the best left-back in the world.
In Bayern’s 8-2 destruction of Barcelona, who rejected him as a youngster, in last week’s Champions League quarter-final tie, Davies tore a shred out of experience Portuguese international Nelson Semedo to set up the Germans’ fifith goal.
He also devastating in his side’s 3-0 win over Chelsea in the Champions League back in February.
The lightning winger-turned-full-back was sensational at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea could not get near him.
Bayern team-mate Thomas Muller said: “He’s learnt a lot since he’s been here. It was a world class performance.”
And former Munich and England star Owen Hargreaves said: “What an athlete he is. He’s a winger, he’s played as a full-back this season, and he’s been absolutely outrageous.”
It has been an amazing journey, as he was born in a refugee camp in Ghana in 2000.
It was hard to live there because the only way you survive sometimes is you have to carry guns, too. And we didn’t have any interest in shooting guns
When the Second Liberian Civil War started, his parents Victoria and Debeah Davies fled their homeland.
“You had to cross over bodies to go and find food,” his mother Victoria said.
“It was hard, it was dangerous,” father Debeah said.
“It was hard to live there because the only way you survive sometimes is you have to carry guns, too. And we didn’t have any interest in shooting guns.”
They travelled hundreds of miles across West Africa, eventually finding sanctuary in a refugee camp at Buduburam in the Gomoa East District of Ghana.
Their eldest child Alphonso was born on November 2, 2000, and he spent the first five years of his life in the camp.
Eventually they passed an interview for a resettlement programme and settled in Edmonton, Canada.
Alphonso enrolled in the Free Footie programme – an after-school initiative for inner-city kids who cannot afford registration fees or transportation to games.
He was spotted by the Whitecaps, and four years ago, at the age of just 15, Davies was handed his professional debut for reserve team Whitecaps FC 2.
A month later he scored his first senior goal.
Later that summer, former Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson took the punt and gave Davies his first taste of top-flight football, making him the second youngest MLS player after Freddy Adu.
Robinson, 41, a former Wolves, Sunderland and Norwich midfielder, now in charge of A-League side Newcastle Jets, said: “Alphonso has all the attributes you want top players to have: he’s 6ft 1in, he’s an athlete, he can run all day, he has phenomenal pace.
He was very skinny and slight but once he beat one or two players other coaches saw the same potential I saw in him
“What he needs to work on is the fact he does the really hard things well and yet he sometimes messes up the simple things. But that’s down to concentration.
“I wanted to get him in the first-team environment because I saw him as this energetic, hungry player, who could cope with men but had to be taught sooner rather than later.
“I have always been sick of stories of players who have talent but were not given the chance.
“He was very skinny and slight but once he beat one or two players other coaches saw the same potential I saw in him.
“Remember, he was still a young boy, he liked going out for ice cream, playing on his PlayStation until 2am. Which, of course, is not ideal for being a pro footballer.
“But I tried to find a balance between letting him being a boy and going through and learning his own mistakes.
“He’s a brilliant person. He likes to dance and sing.
“He is a proper human being. His mum and dad deserve a lot of credit for bringing him up the right way.”
In 2018, Davies received Canadian citizenship.
Once the formalities were agreed, he became, at the age of 16, the youngest player to represent the Canada men’s national team.
Several Premier League clubs showed interest in Davies, notably Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, but the Bayern offer proved too lucrative to turn down.
Robinson, a former Wales international, said: “Alphonso has the mentality of Robbie Keane, who played with an edge, didn’t care about anybody when he came through at 15.
“But his characteristics are like Gareth Bale.
“I worked with Gareth at Wales, and I would say Alphonso is around the same level.
“Alphonso moved to a big club at 17; Gareth didn’t get his chance until later.
“But they are very similar and I liken them to each other.
“His incredible story is the reason why you play this game.
“He has proved dreams do come true.”