For those of you that have not heard of Julian Green, or do not know much about him: listen up. Julian Green is an 18-year-old winger for Bayern Munich II, the reserve team for Bundesliga powerhouse Bayern Munich, in the Regionalliga, which is the fourth tier in the German football league system. He has recorded 15 goals in 18 appearances for Bayern Munich II this season. He was subbed on for Mario Götze in the 88th minute of a 3-1 Champions League win against CSKA Moskva during the group stage. Aside from those two minutes, plus stoppage time, Green has not gotten any playing time for the senior squad. So you may be asking yourself: what makes him more special than other 18-year-old players?
Green is German-American. He was born in Tampa, FL to an American father and German mother, and moved to Germany at age two. His international soccer career began with appearances on the German U-16 and U-17 squad, before playing a friendly with the United States’ U-18 team, then returning to Germany with their U-19 squad. On February 27th, Jürgen Klinsmann officially announced that he would be included on the 24-man roster for the Ukraine friendly on March 5th, which has since been moved to Cyprus. Hold your horses. If Green wants to play in the Ukraine friendly, he would have to file for a one-time FIFA international switch. Doing so would cap-tie him to the United States Men’s National team, and he would no longer be allowed to play for any German international squad, whether it be the U-19 team or their National team. Back in November, Klinsmann extended an invitation to Green to train with the National team before their friendlies against Scotland and Austria. He declined, insisting on playing with the German U-19 squad. This time around, he accepted Klinsmann’s invitation to camp. So what has changed so much in the past four months? Why did he choose to train with the U.S. Men’s National Team, and not be able to play in the Ukraine friendly on Wednesday, over training with the German U-19 team, and being able to play in their friendly on Wednesday against Italy’s U-19 team? Is Green inching closer to a decision? Possibly. Perhaps he is closer to a decision. Maybe he wants to understand what the culture is like with the U.S. Men’s National Team. Maybe he really wants to play in the World Cup this year. At this point, it’s all speculation, and only Julian Green knows the true answers.
The difference-maker in this entire process may be Coach Klinsmann. Since Klinsmann has taken over, he has been going after the top dual-nationality players. He realizes that, to compete on a national-level, you have to reach out to the dual-nationality players. He sells the future to them. As long as they are patient, they can be part of something that has the potential to be great. When Klinsmann took the job, German-born Timmy Chandler and Jermaine Jones were already cap-tied to the United States. Since taking over, he has introduced German-born players John Brooks, Terrence Boyd, Danny Williams, and Fabian Johnson. Last year, he brought in Icelandic-American Aron Johansson. So what exactly is he hoping to accomplish by bringing in Julian Green to train with the Senior National Team? In an interview with ussoccer.com, he said:
We are thrilled Julian accepted our invitation and comes into these two days in Frankfurt. We want to show him how things work with the United States team and with our environment. We want him to meet the players, to meet the staff, obviously to meet us coaches, and we want him to feel comfortable in our environment. With a lot of players who come through the ranks with dual citizenship, it’s going to be very difficult for those kids to choose which country they want to play for if they have this enormous talent to play at the highest level possible.
Julian has this talent. Julian is an exceptional talent not only because he’s playing for Bayern Munich, but he’s shown that already over the past two years in the senior team environment there against the “older guys.” We are happy to welcome him for those two days. It’s a big step for him as we try to emotionally connect him to our program, because it’s not only a World Cup coming up this summer. Next year there’s a Gold Cup, then you have an Olympics, then you have Confederations Cup hopefully and soon comes the next World Cup around the corner in Russia. At the same time we have our eyes on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, we also have our eyes on developing the next generation of players, and Julian is a very important part of that.
Since Green is labeled as the next big thing in American soccer, the obvious comparison to a young forward with a lot of potential is Freddy Adu. They are alike, but not alike, at the same time. Both are/were young promising forwards that have ties with the United States. Both are/were under immense pressure to be the focal point of the future of American soccer. At the same time, Freddy Adu’s potential was based on his abilities from 12-to-14 years of age. There have been plenty of Freddy Adu’s at ages 12, 13, and 14. Julian Green is 18 years old, and plays for the reserve squad of the best club team in the world. Am I guaranteeing that Julian Green will have a more successful career? Absolutely not, but Green could have a much better opportunity to have a better career, which leads me to my next point.
Green’s future at Bayern Munich’s senior team could affect his decision. The problem is: he may not have much of a future at Bayern. Robert Lewandowski, who will be joining Bayern in the summer transfer window, and Mario Mandžukić provide plenty of punch up top, assuming that Mandžukić does not head for the exit door this summer. Their midfield is full of players that have already proved themselves in what seems to be Bayern’s 1-8-1 formation. So where does Green fit in? My guess: he does not. He will have to go on a loan spell while Bayern try to figure out how he can fit in the senior team, or they sell him to another club to get more playing time. On the other side of the spectrum, Bayern could find a way to fit him in with the senior team. Bayern have a close-knit group of Germans on the team: Holger Badstuber, Jerome Boateng, Mario Gotze, Toni Kroos, Thomas Müller, Philipp Lahm, Manuel Neuer, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and they have serious interest in Schalke 04 stud Julian Draxler. The entire process seems like a card game, waiting to see who makes the first move. Bayern could be sitting back, waiting to see which country Julian Green selects; while Julian Green could be waiting for Bayern to decide what they want to do with him. This is pure speculation, but certainly not out-of-reach.
My prediction: Julian Green selects the U.S. Men’s National Team, but probably not until after this year’s World Cup (unless, of course, Klinsmann can promise Green some playing time). Klinsmann’s success rate with German-Americans is off-the-charts. The German national team is a powerhouse from the starting 11, to the bench, and through the reserves. If Green wants a chance to shine, then selecting the U.S. is the obvious choice. Although the decision could potentially interrupt his career at Bayern, he could get more playing time at a different European club. Do the right thing Julian. America is counting on you.
Gedion Zelalem: you’re next.