With only a year remaining on his contract, many Bayern Munich supporters expected that Julian Green would leave the club. With either a full transfer or a loan, Green would want playing time, and he wouldn’t get any in Munich. So, why wouldn’t he want to leave?
When news came out that Green and Bayern had agreed that his time plodding away in the fourth division with Bayern Munich II had come to end, it was seen as both admirable or stupid, depending on who you asked.
He’s going to give it his all to play for Bayern Munich’s first team this season.
Is he just giving up on playing this season? He’ll never play with Bayern Munich’s first team.
There was also the more nuanced take on the situation. It could be both brave and stupid. Why would a player risk not playing at all in order to potentially get seemingly impossible minutes?
With the Audi Summer Tour 2016 approaching and Bayern’s participation in the International Champions Cup, Green knew he had an opportunity. With Robert Lewandowski given an extended break due to his participation in Euro 2016, Green would be the only forward on the roster until Bayern returns to Germany. This was his opportunity to prove to Carlo Ancelotti that he is good enough to be a part of Bayern’s first team.
Having turned 21 years old on June 6, Green looks to have finally matured physically to the point where he can compete with other grown men in battles on the field. He’s proven that. Still, his weaknesses — not the best first touch, great finishing — have been there, as well. Nobody would mistake Green for Lewandowski. That’s not fair.
When people talk about Green being “Lewandowski’s backup” at forward, there seems to be confusion, and that confusion is that people think Lewandowski is replaceable. Quite simply, he’s not. There are few, if any, players in the world that are good enough to be a straight player-for-player swap with Lewandowski.
Being Lewandowski’s backup, in the case of Green, is not to step on the field and replace him against the Madrids and Barcelonas of the world. If Lewandowski is out against those teams, Thomas Müller will play up top by himself. For Green, replacing Lewandowski consists of being able to take the field against the lower level teams in the Bundesliga to give Lewandowski time off.
So, it must be said how wonderful his performance against Inter Milan was on Saturday. Green scored a hat trick in the first 35 minutes against Inter’s first choice defense and goalkeeper. This wasn’t a performance against a Regionalliga team. Inter finished fourth in Serie A last season and will take part in this season’s Europa League. Green, at least, sounds like he has his head on straight and is keeping perspective.
"It's always important for me to score, but it's one game,” Green said after the Inter game. “I scored three goals today and I'm very happy about it. Tomorrow is another day."
At the end of the day, yes, these are just friendlies. In friendlies, what matters are the little things, not the big things. Winning isn’t paramount. Development is. It’s still the preseason, so nobody is expected to be in top form.
Ancelotti is looking for those little things. “He played well, really well. He scored three goals, and was right in the box,” the new coach said after the game. “It was a really good performance. The team had some good offensive play, and Julian was ready to finish.”
Even then, one great performance doesn’t make a career. For this season, the first game that truly matters — against Carl Zeiss Jena in the DFB Pokal — is still two weeks away. Green still has time to impress his new boss.