Canadians in Europe: 2021-22 Season Review

After another hard-fought competitive season over in Europe, soccer is wrapped up in all the major leagues. For Canada, it was a season like no other. A total of four Canadian Men’s National Team internationals won top-flight domestic titles, and many others also had stellar seasons as the European soccer scene continues to get a first-hand look at Canadian talent. So ahead of seeing these Canadian stars take to the field in Vancouver against Panama and Curaçao, let’s take a look at how they got on across the Atlantic.

Alphonso Davies – Bayern Munich

We start off with Canadian soccer’s biggest name who continued to add to his trophy collection. Alphonso Davies is known for typically playing in an advanced role for Canada, but at German giants Bayern Munich, Davies has cemented himself as one of the best left-backs in the world.

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This is all while his season was derailed halfway through due to a heart condition brought on by COVID-19 symptoms that saw him out of action from January to April. Nevertheless, Davies still made thirty-one appearances this season, racking up six assists in the Bundesliga and Champions League, all while providing Bayern with an attacking outlet on the left wing that was a key part in them winning their tenth German title in a row.

Canadian star Alphonso Davies, right, is challenged by Dortmund’s Julian Brandt during a 3-1 victory that gave Bayern Munich its 10th consecutive Bundesliga title on Saturday in Munich, Germany. (Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

Defensively, Davies won 266 tackles and 16 aerial duels in the Bundesliga, as he was part of a team that only conceded thirty-seven goals all season. He was named in the 2021-22 Bundesliga Team of the Year. In the champions league, Davies recovered the ball 24 times and made two successful tackles. It’s hard to believe that Davies is still only twenty-one, and we are still a long way away from his potential peak years, and you would imagine the accolades and trophies will only increase for Davies in the meantime.

Jonathan David – Lille

Another young Canadian superstar, Jonathan David currently plays for French side Lille OSC, but the talented striker is expected to make a big-money transfer to one of European soccer’s biggest names. Courtesy of winning the French Ligue 1 title in 2020-21, David got to play in the UEFA Champions League, and made the most of playing on the biggest stage.

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David scored three goals in the group stage to help Lille finish top of their champions league group. Meanwhile, in the league, David started the season on fire scoring twelve goals in the first nineteen games of the Ligue 1 season.

Jonathan David celebrates scoring in the UEFA Champions League

However, David slowed down in the second half of the season, which coincided with the rumour mill around his future continuing to spin faster and faster. Between week twenty and week thirty-eight, David scored just three goals in the league, but still finished the season with nineteen goals in all competitions, and his fifteen goals were enough to finish as sixth highest in the goalscoring charts. While still only twenty-two, we don’t know what the ceiling is for the striker.

Stephen Eustáquio – Paços de Ferreira / Porto

The twenty-five-year-old midfielder started the season with a stunning win over Tottenham Hotspur in Europa Conference league qualification, and ended it hoisting the Portuguese Primeira Liga title. That 1-0 home leg win over Spurs (they would lose the second leg 3-0) was with Paços de Ferreira, and for the first half of the season Stephen Eustáquio made seventeen appearances for the mid-table Portuguese team.

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Eustáquio’s performances for Paços were garnering attention, and in January he got a dream move. He got a loan deal with Portuguese giants, Porto, that included an option to buy at the end of the season.

Stephen Eustaquio celebrates winning the Primeira Liga title with Porto. (Stephen Eustaquio/Instagram)

Porto was a machine in 2021-22, finishing the domestic season with an incredible twenty-nine wins in thirty-four games, beating out the previous champions Sporting Lisbon by six points. It’s understandable that given that Eustáquio was joining such a juggernaut, the midfielder struggled to break into the team but was still able to get game time for the Dragons. Eustáquio made an appearance for Porto in the Europa League against Lyon, and played a total of 84 minutes for Porto in what were mostly cameo appearances. Eustáquio’s won a Primeira Liga title and Taça de Portugal double with Porto, and has recently agreed to terms to sign with the Portuguese champions on a permanent contract.


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Cyle Larin and Atiba Hutchinson – Beşiktaş

The Brampton, Ontario duo played out a turbulent season in Istanbul that saw one of Turkey’s biggest teams finish sixth in the Süper Lig, just one season after being champions. Striker Cyle Larin played second fiddle to top scorer Michy Batshuayi, but still had his moments. Larin scored against Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League group stage and his brace sealed a win over bitter rivals Galatasaray. In total Larin scored eight goals this season, and is currently in talks for a new contract with the club, although his future is still undecided.

Cyle Larin and Atiba Hutchinson in action for Beşiktaş in November 2021

Meanwhile, teammate Atiba Hutchinson continues to be ageless, as he made thirty-two total appearances for Beşiktaş in 2021-22 and totalled three goals and three assists. It meant that during this season, Hutchinson surpassed the 300 appearances mark for The Black Eagles, and the midfielder has cemented himself even more so as a fan favourite in Turkey.

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Thigh problems and Covid-19 kept Hutchinson out of action at times during the season, and with the world cup on the horizon, Hutchinson will be hoping his thigh will be fully healed when it comes to Qatar.

Tajon Buchanan – Club Brugge

After heartbreak in the MLS, Tajon Buchanan’s disappointment was replaced with jubilation, as the winger helped his parent side Club Brugge win the Belgian Jupiler Pro League. Buchanan was loaned out by the Belgian side to New England Revolution, and he lit up the MLS on his way to winning many personal accolades and the MLS Supporters Shield.

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The honours were well deserved, as he scored eight goals and had six assists in the 2021 MLS regular season, and in the playoffs against New York City, Buchanan did get on the scoresheet in a 1-1 game before losing in heartbreaking fashion on penalties.

Tajon Buchanan celebrates scoring against Royal Antwerp — © BELGA

Buchanan joined up with Brugge for the second of the season and played a pivotal role in their hunt for the league championship. Buchanan had two assists to his name, and got his first goal against Royal Antwerp in a 1-0 win with just five games left. Then in a game against Union Saint-Gilloise that Brugge also needed to win, Buchanan’s shot from the edge of the box was bundled into the Saint-Gilloise net by Anthony Moris for an own goal, sparking wild celebrations at Jan Breydel Stadium.

Buchanan was later sent off in that game, but Brugge went on to win the league by four points and Buchanan played a huge part in winning those said four crucial points. After heartbreak in New England, Buchanan ended the season as a champion of Belgium.

Milan Borjan – Red Star Belgrade

We end this article with the man between the sticks for Canada. Milan Borjan is Red Star’s captain, and the keeper was involved in forty-six games across six competitions in which he managed twenty-six clean sheets and was part of one of Belgrade’s best European campaigns in recent memory.

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After a quick exit from Champions League qualification, Belgrade dropped into the Europa League and Borjan conceded only four goals as Belgrade topped a competitive group that included Braga and Midtjylland. It was the first time Red Star has reached the last sixteen of the Europa League since the competition was reformatted, and although they lost 4-2 on aggregate to Scott Arfield’s Rangers, it was still a campaign to remember.

Milan Borjan celebrates his goal as Red Star win the Serbian League championship

Domestically, Red Star edged out city rivals Partizan Belgrade by two points. The two played out a 0-0 draw in the sixth last game of the season and that clean sheet by Borjan proved to be vital in winning the league. In their final game with the league effectively wrapped up, Belgrade won a penalty late on, and Borjan was given the honour of taking it. The goalkeeper made no mistake from the spot and put the final touch on a great domestic season for Red Star Belgrade and who knows, maybe Canada now has a secret weapon if they’re involved in a shoot-out in the future. Borjan and Red Star then capped off their season with a win over Partizan in the Serbian Cup Final, winning their second consecutive Serbian league and cup double!


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