New U.S. national team recruit Julian Green, left, made his Bayern debut in the Champions League in November. (Andreas Gebert/dpa/AP)
MUNICH — On the day after Julian Green dropped the big news that he has decided to play for the U.S. instead of Germany, Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben and Bastian Schweinsteiger gave approving endorsements of the 18-year-old Bayern forward who may well become a member of the U.S. World Cup team in Brazil.
“He’s got great potential, so I think you can be happy about the fact he chose to play for the United States,” Robben told SI.com in an interview at Bayern’s training ground on Wednesday. “He’s a great talent. He already trained with [Bayern’s first team] several times, and you can see he has potential. He’s quick, he’s got very good dribbling and can score goals.”
Meanwhile, Schweinsteiger smiled when asked about Green.
“First, I think he has a good personality,” he said. “That’s for me always important. And second he’s very quick — without the ball and with the ball. He plays a little bit like me. I’m not as quick as him, but at the beginning of my career I was playing on the left side outside, like his position now, and would come in and shoot with the right foot. And he’s done that a lot of times.
“OK, he’s young, but he’s fresh and dynamic,” Schweinsteiger continued. “It’s good for the United States now, absolutely.”
What are the most important aspects of Green’s decision to play for the U.S.? Well, considering Green has played for German youth national teams and could potentially have had a future with the German senior team, choosing the U.S. over Germany is a major coup for Klinsmann. It certainly didn’t hurt that 1) Klinsmann’s new contract runs through 2018, allowing him to say he’ll be in the job a while, and 2) Green has a chance to be part of this year’s World Cup with the U.S., which wasn’t a possibility with Germany.
Green played for a German youth national team in an official competition at one point, so he had to file papers to make a one-time switch to the United States with FIFA. That has now happened. If FIFA takes care of the paperwork in time for the U.S.’s April 2 friendly against Mexico, Green will be eligible to play in that game. He would be permanently tied to the U.S. as his national team as soon as he gets FIFA's green light.
So who is Julian Green? He was born in Tampa, Fla., to a U.S. father, Jerry, and a German mother, Ursula. At age 2, Julian moved to Germany with his mother and older brother, and he began training at Bayern, Germany’s powerhouse club, at age 14.
“At age 14, you have four times a week of training,” Green told SI.com on Tuesday. “You go to school, train, eat, train. That’s it.”
Green began practicing with Bayern’s first team last summer under new manager Pep Guardiola, and Green signed his first pro contract (through 2017) last November, the same month he debuted for Bayern’s first team in a Champions League game against CSKA Moscow.
Guardiola, who became one of the world’s top managers at Barcelona, has developed a close relationship with the young Green.
“He just says to me that I have to do my best, to play my game,” says Green. “I’m 18, and I have to learn every day.”
Green has played mainly this season for Bayern Munich II, an under-23 team that competes in the German fourth-division Regionalliga. He has 15 goals in 21 games.
A mild-mannered, polite young man, Green nonetheless remains confident in his abilities. When asked to describe his game, he said this with a smile: “Technically, I’m good. I’m fast. I score goals. I can score goals with my head or my left foot or my right foot.”
Lately, Green said, he has been training with Bayern’s second team. “But in June I will be practicing with the first team when the new season starts,” he added.
How likely is it that Klinsmann takes Green to Brazil on the U.S.’s 23-man roster? I’d say it’s pretty likely at this point. Even if Green doesn’t play in Brazil, most teams usually have one or two squad players who don’t get on the field. In the past, countries like Brazil (with Ronaldo in 1994) and England (with Theo Walcott in 2006) have given teenagers the chance to go to the World Cup and gain the experience of being there.
Green is a more likely candidate to be a star in 2018, not 2014. And while he has shown promise to Guardiola and others at Bayern so far, he has barely played for the club’s first team at this point. It’s probably a good thing that the hype machine has been dialed down for Green here in Munich.
As for Bayern, I came here thinking the club would prefer to have Green play for Germany, the better to minimize his travel demands when he plays internationally. But after speaking to people here, I think Bayern might like having a U.S. national team player who could help open up the U.S. market for Bayern, which is trying hard to get bigger Stateside. The club recently announced plans to establish its first U.S. office, in New York City, and Bayern’s participation in the MLS All-Star Game in Portland in August is part of the overall plan.
Bayern is also looking forward to the Bundesliga having a more favorable U.S. TV contract (with Fox Sports) beginning in the fall of 2015.
Will Julian Green be a superstar for the U.S.? Nobody can say for sure at this point. But in case you’re wondering, he gets plenty of perspective every day. Green, after all, still lives at home here in Germany. “My mom drives me [to training] all the time,” he says.
Considering the attention he's already getting from U.S. fans, that's not a bad thing.