For Pierre Hojbjerg, the year 2015 didn't go so well. The Bayern Munich starlet was sent on loan to Augsburg for the first half of the year, and he had mixed results. But instead of taking a step forward this fall, he was relegated to the role of benchwarmer while on loan at Schalke. To boot, Denmark were unable to qualify for the 2016 European Championship.
Now, Hojbjerg's career is at a bit of a crossroads. Will he follow in the footsteps of Kingsley Coman and confidently step into the Bayern team? Or will he, like many before him, become the next promising talent to leave the club after failing to make much of an impression?
Hojbjerg may be under contract at Bayern until 2018, but his current situation is unsustainable in the long term; no player can be a loan journeyman, shuffling from one club to the next for a few months or even a year.
When he comes back from his loan spell in Gelsenkirchen in the spring, it may be a bit of a do-or-die situation for the Dane, who by that time will have gone two years since having what appeared to be a breakthrough game in the DFB-Pokal final against Dortmund.
Bayern are too big a club to be patient with their young players, and Hojbjerg will have to seize his opportunity before another option is drafted in. As it stands, there is some foreseeable room in the Bayern team the player could fill. Xabi Alonso is 34 but hasn't yet been replaced. Javi Martinez could be competition in midfield but could just as easily be removed from the equation and played at center-back if Bayern don't sign backup for their oft-injured options there.
Arturo Vidal, meanwhile, hasn't shown himself to be at the level he was at during his early years at Juventus or even toward the end of his time at Bayer Leverkusen. Bayern won't give up on him or break the bank to bring in an established superstar as the Chilean's replacement yet. But they might let a player such as Hojbjerg compete with Vidal and potentially come into the team as a full-time starter, should he prove himself.
Hojbjerg will also have to stave off competition from Joshua Kimmich in midfield, which could be tricky given the former Stuttgart and RB Leipzig man's age (20), confidence and recent development. But ultimately, Hojberg's future is in his own hands. Like Kimmich, he has abundant talent and more than enough to succeed; he just needs to make the most of it.
That could prove to be difficult with a Schalke side that is well aware of the fact he only has six months left in Gelsenkirchen and that has another highly qualified 1995-born central midfielder in Leon Goretzka, who's played brilliantly this season in Hojbjerg's stead. So another loan may be necessary. Or some luck, such as if a Schalke starter is injured or suspended.
Even though he is not even well-regarded at Schalke, Hojbjerg will have his chance to prove himself at one time or another. And he will also have a chance to do so when he returns to Munich and has a full preseason—unlike many of his team-mates, who will be either at Euro 2016 or the Copa America—to make an impression on new coach Carlo Ancelotti.
The key for Hojbjerg, whether at Schalke, Bayern or elsewhere, is he must take advantage of whatever opportunities he's given. If he does, he could yet become a superstar. If not, he could be the next Mitchell Weiser and be moved along after years of stagnation.