Has Alphonso Davies passed Christian Pulisic, Raul Jimenez as CONCACAF's best player?
Christian Pulisic of the U.S. and Mexico's Raul Jimenez have established themselves in Europe's top leagues, but the form of Bayern Munich's Alphonso Davies has seen the Canadian international garner increasing attention. Does he belong in the conversation among the leading overseas CONCACAF stars? Indeed, is he already No. 1? We asked ESPN writers Arch Bell (@ArchBell) and Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup).
Alphonso Davies' form this season has seen him emerge as a top talent. Arch, what's his deal?
Davies is coming like a freight train. Barely a year after arriving from MLS, the 19-year-old has become a surefire starter at Bayern Munich, showcasing blistering pace and an ability to win 50-50 challenges. No doubt he has the talent and skill to surpass the likes of Jimenez and Pulisic, but the question is whether he can lift Canada to new heights.
What Davies has going for him at the international level is that he can provide service on the left to fellow emerging Canadian star Jonathan David, who plays in Belgium for gent and is just 20. That combination has the potential to score a lot of goals for Canada in the coming decade.
Tom, how far is Davies from being up there with the best from these parts?
Davies is the continent's biggest under-20 talent. While his path from Vancouver Whitecaps hasn't always been smooth, the fact he is now starting regularly at a global giant tells you all you need to know about his development. Bayern don't gradually build players up; they field them when they are ready to do a job. And Davies is doing that, particularly impressing in the 3-0 Champions League win at Chelsea.
The one thing stopping him from challenging the likes of Pulisic and Jimenez right now is that he only began to get regular starts with his club in October. In other words, he has shown good form so far, but must perform over a longer period -- 18 months, say -- if he is going to claim the crown.
Arch, if we are to widen the net a little to include the whole confederation, where does Pulisic stand among CONCACAF's best?
It is hard to believe he is still just 21, because Pulisic has been one of the preeminent North American players in Europe for some time, with over 100 domestic appearances in the Premier League and Bundesliga combined.
Outside Keylor Navas, who is at PSG having won trophies for Real Madrid, Pulisic is the most accomplished CONCACAF player in the UEFA Champions League, with 26 matches under his belt. After a rocky start following his $73 million switch from Borussia Dortmund to Chelsea, he became a starter and showed he can handle the pressure that comes with playing at Stamford Bridge, before suffering an injury just after Christmas.
On the international front, it is time for Pulisic to lead the United States to a trophy, whether it be the Nations League or Gold Cup. Moreover, he has still has not scored against Mexico, let alone played in a win against them, so an alpha dog performance against his country's biggest rival should also be on his to-do list.
Tom, Jimenez has been stellar for Wolves and Mexico. What is the argument for him to be the main man?
It centers upon the numbers and consistency of a player at the peak of his powers. In this Premier League season, Jimenez has 13 goals and six assists -- only three players have more combined -- in 29 games for a team that is not considered one of England's "big six."
In other words, Jimenez has been an essential part of Wolves' push for a Champions League place, not just because of his goals, but his all-around play. Add to that his nine goals in 13 Europa League appearances and his impact for Mexico -- he has eight goals in his last 12 games for El Tri -- and the former Club America striker has shown a consistently high level.
There are two lingering questions for Jimenez at this stage of his career. The first is whether he can step up to impact the Champions League, given previous spells Atletico Madrid and Benfica involved long stints on the bench. Whether the 28-year-old can achieve that objective at Wolves remains to be seen, although there would be no shortage of suitors should he become available.
The other question is how much impact Jimenez can make with the Mexican national team. He was a bit-part player at the 2014 and 2018 World Cups, but under Gerardo Martino is undoubtedly the starting No. 9; fitness and form permitting, he will get a chance to produce on the big stage in Qatar three years from now.
Tom, we have made the case for three top candidates. How would you rank them and is anyone else worthy of mention?
In order, my CONCACAF top five would be Jimenez, Keylor Navas, Pulisic, Davies and Carlos Vela. While Davies is an easy pick in a best XI at left-back, it's premature to say he is the best in the region. Obviously, he and Pulisic have age on their side and it would be no surprise if, in four years, there is a three-way fight for this award involving Davies, Pulisic and Hirving Lozano, 24.
Arch, what is your final take?
I agree with Tom. Davies is not quite the best player in CONCACAF, but he is certainly in the top five and an easy choice for left-back / left wing-back in a best XI. Other decorated players like Pulisic, Lozano and Jimenez have accomplished more in Europe, while Davies also needs a transcendent performance in World Cup qualifying.
Looking further ahead, which players could be part of the 'best in CONCACAF' conversation in the future?
Committing his future to the U.S. over Netherlands was a major coup for the national team and even though the right-back has started only 15 Eredivisie games for Ajax, Dest is already attracting interest from Bayern Munich. -- Marshall
Macias is the next in line to the throne of Mexico's starting No. 9. The Chivas striker is keen on a move to Europe and has impressed early in his Liga MX career. -- Marshall
The son of USMNT great Claudio, Reyna is poised for big things at Borussia Dortmund, where he is playing Champions League soccer alongside fellow wonderkids Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho. -- Marshall
He has had ups and down at Werder Bremen, but the American striker is just 20 and has plenty of room to grow. Three goals in 18 league matches is not bad; with maturity he can develop into a Bundesliga star. -- Bell
Alvarado made his club debut in Mexico's second division aged just 15 in 2013 and has continued to show maturity on the field. The versatile Cruz Azul midfielder / forward looks ready for a move to Europe. -- Marshall
The Suriname starlet, 20, led all scorers during 2019-20 CONCACAF Nations League with 10 goals in four games. Currently with Aris Limassol in Cyprus, Vlijter will surely find himself in a more competitive environment soon. -- Bell
The Costa Rican 17-year-old was named Best Young Player of the 2019 CONCACAF League, scoring four goals and helping Saprissa win the title. Ugalde has 10 goals in 33 games in Costa Rica's first division; Europe will be calling soon. -- Bell