Why Bayern Munich Should Have Reloaned Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in January

Clark Whitney@@Mr_BundesligaFeatured ColumnistFebruary 8, 2016

Munich's Pierre Emile Hojbjerg during  their friendly soccer match between FC Bayern and AC Milan, in the Allianz Arena stadium in Munich, southern Germany, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)
Kerstin Joensson/Associated Press

Not long ago, Bayern Munich were renowned for home-grown talent. Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger became club icons in the 2000s, as local Bavarians who had come through the academy. Thomas Muller is now the next symbol, with David Alaba and Toni Kroos examples of how the club had success recruiting teenagers from other clubs and promoting them from the Bayern youth system.

Yet over the last few years, Bayern's academy has become less fruitful. Alaba is the last true success story, the Austria international having been a regular starter since he returned from loan at Hoffenheim in 2011.

Like Barcelona, the side known for its legendary La Masia academy, Bayern's problem with youth development has been a lack of opportunity in the senior team. With success has come the expectation to win every game and a lack of tolerance for the naivety of youth.

The Bavarians' success has also brought them heaps of cash, and with it, the ability to sign mature, senior players that have made it nearly impossible for a burgeoning talent to emerge. The simple truth is, only 11 players can be on the pitch at a given time, and Bayern are more likely to use players who are already of top caliber than players who could eventually become great.

The way around Bayern's 11-player limitation is the loan system, which worked well for Alaba and Kroos. And in that regard, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was meant to be the next success story.

The Denmark international was sent to Augsburg last spring, where he earned relatively regular minutes. Yet perhaps the club delayed their decision of what to do with him in the summer until it was too late to choose an attractive option. On August 31, Hojbjerg was loaned to Schalke.

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Hojbjerg is an established Denmark international but hasn't had much success at club level.
Hojbjerg is an established Denmark international but hasn't had much success at club level.Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

On the one hand, Schalke were a good destination for Hojbjerg: They were and are a better team than Augsburg and have a good record for developing young talents.

Yet both of those advantages would prove to be negatives for Hojbjerg's situation. Schalke were so good that, like Bayern, they didn't have enough room for Hojbjerg in their starting lineup. And it would be their young players who would keep him out of the lineup.

Per Transfermarkt, Hojbjerg played just 405 minutes in the first half of the Bundesliga campaign, making only three starts and going the full 90 minutes on just one occasion. Leon Goretzka was and is his main competition for a starting role, and Schalke have understandably preferred to use their own 20-year-old box-to-box midfielder ahead of the one under long-term contract with Bayern.

The possibility of both playing together has not been used, perhaps due to the effectiveness of Leroy Sane, Eric-Maxim Choupo Moting and Max Meyer in attacking roles to support Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

If it was risky to loan Hojbjerg to Schalke in August, it was negligent to leave him in Gelsenkirchen in January. Bayern did well to loan Gianluca Gaudino to St. Gallen and send Sinan Kurt to Hertha BSC with a buy-back clause, but they didn't appear to make an attempt to convince Schalke to let him try his luck at a club where he would be given more regular playing time.

Germany international Serge Gnabry was in a position similar to Hojbjerg's over the first half of the season, with the Arsenal man denied playing time at West Bromwich Albion. Last week, Arsene Wenger recalled the Germany under-21 international, per Sky Sports, and is expected to send him out on loan elsewhere.

It was the right move to recall Gnabry, and a similar move from Bayern (or at least an effort to do so) in Hojbjerg's case would have been wise.

With Xabi Alonso aging and Arturo Vidal having failed to settle at Bayern, the right loan move last summer could have set up Hojbjerg for a starting role with the Bavarian giants next season. Now, as he rides the bench at Schalke, this season is looking more and more like a wasted opportunity.



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