Trying to recruit Max Meyer from Borussia Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp said: “he would be the holder and captain in 90% of the national teams”. Of course, those words were meant to soften the player over a move proposal, but they also underline how much the midfielder was highly regarded early in his career.
Meyer was a starlet, her country’s next big talent and, like so many short, technically gifted teens, was drawing comparisons to Lionel Messi.
Still, on Friday it was confirmed that the German’s contract with Crystal Palace had been terminated by mutual agreement, ending a spell that earned him two goals and three assists in 56 appearances.
So what happened to the bright and exciting 17-year-old who made his debut in 2013?
Simply put, the answer to this is not a lot – and that’s the problem.
The aforementioned debut marked great things for Meyer. He had his first professional football experience due to injuries and the departure of Lewis Holtby to Tottenham in January of the same year.
With no other option but to look to youth, Schalke manager Jens Keller called up a fresh-faced Meyer in his Bundesliga and Champions League squads and made his debut shortly thereafter.
As Schalke ended up 2-1 against Mainz, Keller faced Meyer in the 72nd minute. It took only ten minutes for the 17-year-old to provide the assist for Michel Bastos’ equalizer to clinch a point in the Bundesliga.
And things didn’t slow down from there. After inheriting Raul’s number seven jersey – which the club planned to retire before relinquishing to Meyer – a prolific first full season in 2013/14 saw him score nine and four assists, earning him a spot in Joachim Low’s provisional team for the 2014 World Cup. Cup.
The German made his debut for his country in May that year, and continued to play three more times for Die Mannschaft.
So where did it go wrong? How did a player on the verge of superstar fall into the dark?
Well, his career fell flat after this summer. He went on to show why he was compared to Mesut Ozil and Thomas Hassler in Germany, but that was just it – mere glimpses.
He scored seven goals in 37 appearances that season, as he was somewhat eclipsed by the breakthrough of a certain Leroy Sane, who had managed three league goals in just 13 appearances as an 18-year-old winger. .
And that’s where the cruel world of football media comes in. The fierce hype around Meyer has been replaced by the excitement that surrounded Sane, leaving the first to be, well, rather forgotten.
The 2015/16 season was overwhelming for the midfielder. He has managed six goals and five assists in 35 games, while his teammate Sane has provided 14 goals in 33 Bundesliga appearances. Meyer ended the campaign after being included in the German Olympic team, while Sane was named in the 23 for the European Championships.
Since then Sane has moved to Manchester City and is now at Bayern Munich, and Meyer made the move to Selhurst Park after enduring two more lackluster seasons at the Veltins-Arena.
And things didn’t turn out at the Palace either.
We all know how disappointing his time in England was.
One goal and two assists in 29 Premier League games in his debut season, followed by no goal contribution in his second season, have led the German to make the League Cup once and for the team club reserve this season – at least he managed to register an assist in a Premier League 2 appearance, right?
This Under-23 game was Meyer’s final in a Palace jersey.
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact reason for his career downward trajectory but, like with so many players, confidence has been a real issue.
Meyer had to cope with the mass of hype that accompanied his first steps into professional football, and he consistently showed throughout his first season why he deserved such attention. But a player dismissed by the media – and even his national team manager – when the next prodigy appears inevitably loses confidence.
After a failed stint at Palace, it’s hard to see a way back to where the football world thought he would be now, given the early days of his career.
Meyer is still only 25, however – yes, he is still only 25 – and has plenty of time to get his career back on track and showcase his undoubted talent at the right club, although he may never fill the comparisons with Messi – shock.