Far from the glittering lights of UEFA and the rich traditions and rivalries of CONMEBOL, CONCACAF teams have long labored under a reputation for tough, verging on brutal, football. Known more for their conditioning and grit, footballers from the United States and Canada were considered especially unfit for top division teams in Europe. This is mirrored on the international level. Canada in particular has a reputation of being competitive only on the regional level, and even then the Canucks (or Les Rouges) are rated behind the United States and Mexico, as well as Costa Rica and Panama. Recently however this reputation has begun to shift, in no small part due to the development success of Canadian clubs.
Alphonso Davies is the most well-known example. He exploded out of the gate in 2016, making his MLS debut at sixteen for the Vancouver Whitecaps. Four years later his star has only risen. He moved to Bayern Munich, one the best ten or fifteen best clubs in Europe, and after moving positions, broke into the starting eleven. Now he is one of the best left backs in the world and a Champions League cup holder. Add midfielders Richie Laryea, Jonathon Osorio, and Mark-Anthony Kaye — all three of whom were born in Toronto, trained with local youth teams and played professionally for Toronto FC — and the Canucks (or Les Rouges) have the spine of a potentially competitive team. However, the team is crucially lacking a center forward, so where do the Canadian public look for the man to put away Davies’ pinpoint crosses?
Enter Jonathon David. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Port-Au-Prince, David’s family moved to Ottawa in 2006. He spent his youth career with a couple local clubs before making a largely unheralded move to Belgian club Gent in 2018. The Belgian Pro League is considered one of the weaker leagues in Europe. Although often overshadowed by the neighboring Eredivisie, both leagues have a reputation for developing youngsters, especially forwards. Neither country has limits on the number of foreign players their teams can register, which encourages clubs to scout and sign from all over the world. Both leagues have a high average pace, and generally teams play vertical, attacking football. Gent was an especially suitable move for David as they routinely qualify for European football. The second match David appeared in for the Belgian side was a Europa League Qualifier. He scored the game’s only goal in just 29 minutes of playing time, setting a stunning goal scoring record that he would keep up during his time in Belgium.
In 2018-2019 he made the pitch for Gent 43 times, scoring twelve goals and adding five assists. David led the team in league goals with eight and Gent qualified for the Europa League. The next season David would go nuclear. In 40 appearances he scored 23 goals and registered ten assists, good for 0.91 G+A/90 minutes, easily the best mark on the team. In 2019-2020 Gent went on to finish second in the Belgian Pro League and again qualify for European football. After two seasons in Europe Jonathon David was starting to look like a star. Even more exciting for the Canucks back home, David appeared for the men’s national team twelve times in 2018 and 2019 and scored eleven goals.
Short and relatively slight, David does not flourish as a lone striker. At Gent he played in a partnership, scoring many of his goals by crashing the box late. He has a natural eye for goal, and his deep positioning should not be confused for a preference for playing attacking midfield. When you isolate just his creative output his stats look less impressive. The fact that he hit ten assists in 2019 can be attributed more to his importance to Gent than being especially suited for a midfield role. The Canadian national team has a strong spine and a future captain in Davies, and Jonathon David is the ideal spearhead to lead them into the future.
But what is next for the spear of the north? First, a move to Lille in Ligue 1. Lille paid Gent 35 million euros for David’s services this summer. He is yet to score in five appearances, but Lille is second in the league and David is appearing regularly. Lille has had a good reputation with youngsters lately, having sold 22-year-old Gabriel to Arsenal for 28 million euros and 21-year-old Victor Osimhen to Napoli for 77 million pounds. As such their purchase of David represents a significant reinvestment of these funds. Expectations are high, and it is reasonable to assume that Lille will do everything in their power to make David a success.
They say in Canada only two things are certain, snow and taxes. This winter however, Canadians can count on one more certainty: Jonathon David putting the ball in the back of the net.