Yunus Musah Carves A Path For USMNT Players
The teenager is showing character and skill are the keys to success.
Yunus Musah is lighting a path for young American soccer players looking to earn their keep in Europe.
And for Musah it was a winding path of his own. Born in New York City to Ghanaian parents, he lived in Italy until the age of nine, when he moved to London.
As a kid, Musah was eligible to play for the U.S., Ghana, Italy, and England. After playing more than 30 times for England at the youth level, he ultimately made the decision to commit to represent the United States internationally on March 13, 2021. He now has 13 USMNT caps.
In the middle of all that, Musah played with the likes of Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Folarin Balogun during his seven years at Arsenal academy - before being convinced to make the switch to Valencia CF in Spain at the age of 16.
When Musah joined Valencia in 2019 he was assigned to the reserves in Segunda División B. He's since broken in to the first team and extended his contract until 2026.
This season, he's scoring goals like this one against Atletico Madrid:
But even that breakthrough had it's own twist and turns.
"When Yunus first came here, very quickly he was training with the reserve team, he wasn't doing as well in the moment so we brought him back down to the under-19s," said Valencia academy general director Sean Bai in a recent BBC interview.
"Most players would have got frustrated, unhappy, complained to their agent or the sporting director. Yunus went down and played his heart out, smiling in every training session and every game, and eventually he jumped to the first team."
Yunus credits the strength of his character to his family upbringing - saying they made sure he did well at school and "kept him on the right path".
"My parents definitely made a lot of sacrifices," he says.
"My family coming form Ghana, not from the wealthiest parts, and changing their lives around going to Italy and America and England, all to give their children a better life. I am so grateful for that and the values they taught me. Every day I try to implement them in my life and my football."
In 19 years, Musah has done more than most aspiring U.S. players ever will. And we're not saying it's even close to the path every prospective player should take. (Kids, don't ask your parents to move you to three countries so you can play more footy.) Rather, it's the character he's shown, and the skills he's developed as a result of those choices which will make him a leader and integral part of both the USMNT and Valencia's set-ups.
Musah's progress and experience will open doors for Valencia when scouting in the U.S., and can be used as a blueprint for other European clubs to find similar qualities in American players that are universally desired.
"What we see in Yunus is not an English, American, Italian or Ghanaian player, but a player with such a strong hunger to improve and such a strong motivation to succeed at the highest level of football," says Bai to the BBC.
"These are the ingredients needed for success in Europe and that has allowed us to attract a lot more players in that mold. Hopefully we can have similar success with them to what we had with Yunus."