In the past six months, Julian Green has tumbled to the peripheries of the Bayern Munich team that he was so determined to break into. In the summer of 2015, after a desolate and ineffective loan spell with Hamburger SV, it seemed the most exciting academy product in years would again be loaned out to gain valuable first-team experience. Although the player himself insisted he would stay and fight for his place, Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge suggested that a short term move would better suit both player and club.
This move never materialized, and Green stayed in Munich to challenge for a spot among a surplus of highly-talented attacking options. Unfortunately, Green failed to the make the breakthrough he desired, and ultimately spent the vast majority of the Hinrunde playing for the reserves in the fourth division.
Facing an uphill battle, Green has been one of the most prolific players for the Bayern reserves this season, an indication his Bayern career is not over. In fact, Green’s performances this season for Bayern II and during the Winterpause in Qatar drew praise from Bayern bigwigs Matthias Sammer and Uli Hoeneß, as well as Bayern II coach Heiko Vogel, who said, "His future is in his own hands… he has taken a definitive step forward." After his time in Hamburg, according to Vogel, Green "needed time to get back into his rhythm. And he will move further forward in 2016."
Since the summer transfer window closed, Green has only featured once for the first team, playing a mere sixty-two minutes in a meaningless Champion’s League group-stage match against Dinamo Zagreb. While evidence of Green’s time on the pitch might be hard to find, reasons for it are not. Bayern’s depth in attacking midfield and wing positions has certainly played a role in Green’s lack of opportunities with the first team. The productive combination of Douglas Costa, Kingsley Coman, and Thomas Müller kept Green out of a Bayern side that was already missing Arjen Robben, Franck Ribéry, and Mario Götze for much of the first half of the season. The arrival of Coman in particular has exceeded the expectations of many. With four goals and seven assists in 18 starts across all competitions this season, the 19-year-old Frenchman looks like the player many fans hoped Green would become.
Much like Coman, Green has featured in a number of positions in attack and midfield, albeit in the Regionalliga Bayern and not the Bundesliga. With eight goals in 19 games, Green is the second leading scorer on the team behind Patrick Weihrauch, who has nine. In addition, Green ranks third on the team in assists with four, behind Karl-Heinz Lappe's 10 and Milos Pantovic's five.
Green appears to have the support of the management for now, but he will have to capitalize on any first-team opportunities in Guardiola’s final days as manager. As the summer of 2016 approaches the club and the player could find themselves at a crossroads once again. Green will be turning 21 years old in June and the team will be under the control of a new manager. With other youth players stepping up, the team will not wait forever for Green to fulfill his potential.
Midfielders Fabian Benko and Niklas Dorsch signed their first professional contracts with the club last September and top prospect Gianluca Gaudino has been loaned to St. Gallen until 2017. With just one year left on Green’s contract, the club may opt to move on and chalk him off as yet another youngster who failed to reach his full potential.
On the other hand, Robben and Ribéry are not getting any younger (or fitter) and the torch might have to be passed to the younger generation sooner rather than later. The club could opt to extend Green’s contract and either send him out on another loan spell to give him a second chance at regularly featuring in a top division, or, in a more unlikely scenario, keep him with the reserves for yet another season. Alternatively, Green could be handed a lifeline to the first team if he is able to impress incoming boss Carlo Ancelotti when preseason play begins.
There are a multitude of possibilities right now, but, among all this speculation there seems to be one certainty: Green faces an uphill battle if he hopes to break into this current Bayern side.