PREVIEW – Back in 2018, while all the Canadian headlines were mostly focused on a young kid from Vancouver making his big move to a European powerhouse in Germany, there was a quieter deal being made of a young man moving from an amateur club in Ottawa to the lesser-known leagues in Belgium.
Today, even though that kid from Vancouver’s name might still be the more well-known one, the name Jonathan David now rings out throughout both North America and Europe, even though, just four years prior, he was nowhere near that fame.
Jonathan David: Canada’s Talismanic Forward
Early Life: A Slow Start for David
Jonathan Christian David was born in New York City on January 14th, 2000, to two Haitian parents that decided to move back to Haiti when he was just three months old. At age six, David’s family moved once again, this time to Ottawa, Canada, where he spent the majority of his adolescence.
At age 10, he began playing soccer for his local club, the Ottawa Gloucester Hornets. He stayed with the team for eight years, turning down professional contracts from other Canadian MLS teams.
His reasoning? He was determined to play in Europe and develop his game there.
“His plan was always to go to Europe.” Said Hornets technical director Jay Dacosta when questioned about David’s early ambitions by BBC Sport’s Harry De Cosemo.
“The Canadian MLS sides all wanted him but it is testament to his mentality that he took that path…he stayed local and worked on his game.”
“When some kid from Ottawa tells you he’s going to play in Europe, it’s like ‘yeah, yeah sure you are’, but he did it.”
He sure did do it. For, in 2018, David’s ambitions led him to make the big move across the Atlantic to join the youth set-up for K.A.A. Gent, and sign his first professional contract.
Club Career: Hitting the Ground Running
He had to wait over six months to make his debut for Gent, but all the hard work, patience, and determination he’s shown since he was 10 years old, finally paid off. He played in a league game versus Zulte Waregem and scored late into stoppage time to manage a draw.
From then on, Jonathan David could not be stopped. He went on to score five goals in as many matches. This earned him a contract extension, and some raised eyebrows from those both in and out of Belgium.
And that newfound attention to this previously unheard-of wonderkid only increased in the next two years. David scored 30 goals for Gent in 60 games, giving him an incredible GPG average of 0.5.
At this point, the world was firmly watching.
Pinpoint accuracy, clinical finish. 😍 pic.twitter.com/FXGGySlzHI
— DAZN Canada (@DAZN_CA) February 27, 2020
To their credit, Gent tried their best to latch onto their young prospect by giving him another contract extension in 2019, but by 2020, the attention was too much. The Belgian side sold David to Lille OSC for a record 30 million euros, making him the most expensive football transfer for a Canadian to date.
And while he had a relatively slow start to his Lille career, he has since been one of their best players. He was a key player for Lille in their championship 2020-21 Ligue 1 Uber Eats season, scoring 13 goals. He scored a further 15 goals the following league season, and 19 in all competitions, making him the club’s top scorer. This season, he is keeping up that top-scorer status with nine in 15.
These numbers are even more impressive if you remember that four years ago he was still playing in an amateur club in Ottawa. Now he is a top striker in one of Europe’s top five leagues and has his name being linked to superpowers like Manchester United and Arsenal.
Like Gent before them, Lille will have trouble holding on to their star striker, especially since he just keeps getting better.
🇨🇦 JONATHAN DAVID SCORES A BRACE! 🔥
— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) October 14, 2022
International Career: A Meteoric Rise
Although he is American born, and of Haitian descent, Jonathan David had his sights solely set on representing Canada.
Involved in the youth setups since 2015, he rejected the call from the US in 2018, and instead was called up for Canada’s Nations League Qualifier versus the US Virgin Islands.
He started in a similar fashion to his club career, scoring a brace in his debut against the minnow side. And that was just a sign of things to come, as in the 2019 Gold Cup his prolific nature made him the competition’s top-scorer with six goals, including a notable hat trick versus Cuba. Impressively, he finished top scorer even though Canada was eliminated in the quarter-final stage.
Due to his goalscoring ability at the international level, he was awarded the 2019 Canadian Men’s Player of the Year, and since then he has been Canada’s talisman forward. In World Cup Qualifying he scored his second hat trick versus Suriname, and finished as the second top goal scorer in WCQ with nine goals, just behind Cyle Larin with 13.
With his rapid pace, sharp control in tight spaces, and a knack for finding and attacking gaps in the defense, it is no wonder that in just 37 appearances, he has 22 goals, matching Canadian legend Dwayne De Rosario but in 44 fewer appearances.
It is just a matter of time before this ever-clinical forward beats Cyle Larin’s record (25) of being Canada’s top goal scorer and goes on to make even more history as one of Canada’s biggest football imports.
JONATHAN DAVID completes his HAT-TRICK! 🎩
The Lille OSC striker buries a penalty to give #CanMNT a 4-0 lead over Suriname in this crucial World Cup Qualifying bout 💪
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) June 9, 2021
Final Audition for David
Although Canada has been eliminated after just two games in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Jonathan David will look to impress on the final matchday for Canada versus Morocco. That game will be televised nationally on TSN and CTV and also televised in Quebec. It will take place this Thursday at 10:00 AM ET.
Not only will he be looking towards making history in both becoming another scorer for Canada at the World Cup and helping them get their first result, but he will also look towards impressing all those clubs who might be interested in him.
He has already attracted the eyes of many of Europe’s top teams, and no doubt will try to channel that same ambition and drive that he had early on in his career to dazzle in his last chance on the world’s biggest stage.