Bayern Munich rebounded from a tough opener to their United States tour by hammering Inter Milan on Saturday, downing the Serie A side by a commanding 4-1 score.
The German giants were held to a 3-3 draw against AC Milan on Thursday but roared into form against Inter, opening a four-goal lead before half-time. Only shortly before the final whistle did Mauro Icardi grab a consolation goal for the Milanese side.
The story of the night was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, Julian Green. So talented yet for so long an afterthought at the Bavarian giants, the United States international netted a hat-trick in 35 minutes.
Green's opener was something out of the Mario Gomez playbook, a poacher's goal scored as he stuck out a leg to make just enough contact to redirect David Alaba's cross into the net.
His second also showed superb composure and a finisher's touch; whereas most attacking midfielders would have taken the ball immediately and looked to dribble past the last man, Green let Franck Ribery's pass run across him until he was within shooting range, then fired a low drive inside the right post with his first touch with his weaker left foot.
Green rounded off his hat-trick by tapping in from Rafinha's low cross.
Two full seasons have passed since Green lit up the Regionalliga Bayern, scoring 15 goals and giving eight assists in 23 appearances for the reserves. In the 2013-14 campaign, former manager Pep Guardiola even gave him his professional debut, a two-minute outing in the Champions League against CSKA Moscow. Those would be the only minutes Green played professionally in 2013-14, but that and his performance at the World Cup were enough for Hamburg to take him on loan for the following campaign.
However, 2014-15 would prove disastrous for Green. He managed just 109 minutes in all competitions for the senior team, per Transfermarkt, starting just once and coming on as a late substitute on a few other occasions. November 2014 marked his final match for Hamburg, and he only appeared on the bench twice thereafter.
Green had his differences with the Hamburg management, with Die Zeit (h/t ESPN FC's Stephan Uersfeld) stating he was demoted to the reserves for refusing to join 2. Bundesliga side 1860 Munich during the January transfer window.
The ESPN FC report quoted Green admitting he did not sign a disciplinary letter that would have obligated him to play for the HSV reserves if called upon to do so. He generally refused to play in the German fourth tier while at Hamburg, the one exception being an appearance in March of 2015.
Although ESPN FC quoted Green as saying Guardiola "liked" him and that the player "[could] rely on him," the former Bayern trainer left Green in the reserves for all of 2015-16 but for a 62-minute Champions League run-out in the final match of the group stage. Green scored 10 goals and assisted four more for the reserves in 28 appearances, but his form wasn't enough to see him break into the first team.
What's interesting is new boss Carlo Ancelotti has taken a liking to Green. The coach recently told reporters "[Green] will be important for [Bayern] in the season."
Curiously, Ancelotti seems to see the 5'8" Green as a striker. The player featured occasionally as a centre-forward last season but predominantly played as a winger, as he always has done. Ancelotti apparently saw Green's potential as a poacher during training, and the player has since thrived.
Given how long it's been since he first emerged as a potential resource for the Bayern senior team, it's easy to lose sight of the fact Green only turned 21 years of age this summer. He's not past the point of fulfilling his potential. Far from it. This bodes well for a Bayern team with few options behind Robert Lewandowski in the striker position. In fact, the only options behind the Poland international are Green (predominantly a winger) and Thomas Muller (whose best skills are muted if he plays as the focal point of the attack).
It's uncertain whether Bayern's endgame is to promote Green to the senior team for the 2016-17 campaign and have him as an alternative to Lewandowski or if he's just getting minutes so the club can either sell him at a better value or loan him to a club that may be more interested in playing him than Hamburg were. Perhaps Bayern's management team is still trying to figure out how to handle Green's situation, with his preseason friendly performance affecting the decision.
For the player at least, his hat-trick against Inter was a big positive. After a tumultuous couple of years, Green looks closer than ever to achieving regular Bundesliga football.