Bayern Munich is incredibly good. Hamburger SV? Not so much, and Hamburg’s reserves are literally not even in the same league. Not even close to the same league.
If you were a prospect, where would you want to fall? With Bayern, right? It’s an easy question, but what if I told you a prospect had started with FCB, slipped to that HSV middle ground, and is now at the other endpoint: the lesser team’s reserves?
After today’s news, your most likely response would be “hey, you’re talking about Julian Green!” This morning, Hamburg — the team to which the young U.S. international was loaned from Bayern at the beginning of the season — sent him to play with its U23s. For a player with the quality to justify Bayern’s resources, it seems harsh, but then you see Green’s yet to notch a goal or assist in 112 minutes this season and realize there may be something to this.
Anybody could look bad over 112 minutes (see current Ronaldo, Cristiano), but this decision’s likely a culmination of that game time, nearly six months of exposure on the training ground, and the fact that other HSV players are finally starting to showcase their long-repressed talents. Oh, another important part: Green’s only 19 years old. So, these things happen.
“He has to impose himself there,” Hamburg sporting director Peter Knabel told Bild. “The under-23 team is no trash can after all. It’s the flagship of our academy.”
Ah, trash can. I get it. You don’t want people to think you’re throwing Green away. That’s very considerate of you. Alas, this does seem like a good time to alter our expectations.
It’s easy to see a 17-, 18-year-old with Bayern (or Arsenal) credentials and dream of a break in that theoretical U.S. talent pipeline. But playing in the youth setup of any team isn’t always the “one-step away” place its description implies. And for most prospects, there is a ton of development to be done in those years. Some players are Jozy Alitdore-esque man-children, but most are like Julian Green or Gedion Zelalem – promising as hell, but still more promise than product.
That promise is probably still there with Green. I don’t know. I haven’t seen him play much this season. Then again, nobody has, though hopefully that will change. While today’s news is certainly a setback, it’s probably done with the best intentions. And there’s no reason why a temporarily derailed prospect can’t take advantage of the opportunity.