Hamburg - Exactly 776 kilometres separate FC Bayern München’s Allianz Arena and the Imtech Arena in Hamburg, but the distance between the two clubs is not just geographical. Their current sporting fortunes reveal a chasm of similar proportions, and one man to have recently made the move from south to north is now charged with helping to bridge the gap: teenage sensation .
Destined for greatness
Bundesliga champions for a record 23rd time last season, Bayern finished the 2013/14 campaign 63 points ahead of HSV. The northerners, by contrast, needed a relegation play-off to survive in the top flight and maintain their unique record of never having been relegated. With just one point and no goals from their first two games, though, this season has already begun to go awry, and new recruit Green has a challenge on his hands.
That the 19-year-old is already being considered as one who could make a key contribution for the beleaguered Red Shorts is testament to his meteoric rise to fame in the last 12 months. Plucked from the Bayern reserves in the summer of 2013 by incoming Bayern coach Pep Guardiola, Green spent last season in the senior squad, making his first-team debut in the UEFA Champions League.
USA coach Jürgen Klinsmann then gambled on the Florida-born attacker by naming him in his final 23-man squad for the FIFA World Cup, and Green didn’t disappoint. In the quarter-finals against Belgium he came off the bench in extra time to of the tournament and become the United States’ youngest ever World Cup goalscorer. Little wonder, then, that his growing reputation precedes him.
Exuberance of youth
He evidently has all the capabilities to produce something spectacular, and after two uninspiring displays so far this term (a 0-0 draw at 1. FC Köln and an embarrassing 3-0 home defeat against top-flight debutants SC Paderborn), a taste of something different could be exactly what HSV need to kick-start their season. Green, as well as other new signings such as Lewis Holtby and Valon Behrami, will be charged with doing just that.
The confidence that the Tampa-born forward exuded when paraded to the media on arriving in Hamburg also bodes extremely well for a club down on its luck. “I’m a completely normal guy, [but on the pitch] I’m fast and unpredictable, and I like to get into goalscoring positions," said Green. "My target is to give everything in training so I can play as much as possible. My priority now is establishing myself at the highest level.”
A season of significance
Klinsmann advised Green to accept the challenge of testing himself at Hamburg, while Guardiola urged him to “work hard” and “make a mark”. “That’s exactly what I’ll do,” says the man himself, confidently. Matchday 4 represents the earliest opportunity for him to do so and show his parent club the strides he has made, when his former team-mates will be the guests in the Imtech Arena.
Prior to that encounter, Green will have travelled back to Munich one last time, before making the northbound journey that marks his definitive arrival in Hamburg. His next few months will likely tell if the distance between the two feels quite so long the next time around.
Dennis-Julian Gottschlich / Bernie Reeves