The curious case of Max Meyer: Germany’s next big thing, turned Crystal Palace flop

When trying to sign Max Meyer while at Borussia Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp said: “he would be a starter and captain at 90% of national teams”. Of course, these words were intended to sweeten the player on a proposed move, but they do also highlight just how highly regarded the midfielder was early in his career.

Meyer was a starlet, his country’s next big talent and, like so many short, technically gifted teenagers, drew comparisons to Lionel Messi.

Yet, on Friday, it was confirmed that the German’s contract with Crystal Palace had been terminated by mutual consent, ending a spell which saw him bag 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?

Put simply, the answer to that is not very much – and that’s the problem.

The aforementioned debut spelled great things for Meyer. He was afforded his first taste of professional football due to injuries and the departure of Lewis Holtby to Tottenham in January of that year.

With no other option but to look to youth, then-Schalke manager Jens Keller called up fresh-faced Meyer into his Bundesliga and Champions League squads and gave him his debut not long after.

As Schalke found themselves 2-1 down against Mainz, Keller brought on Meyer in the 72nd minute. It took the 17-year old just ten minutes to provide the assist for a Michel Bastos equaliser to secure a Bundesliga point.

And things didn’t slow up from there. After inheriting Raul’s number seven shirt – which the club had planned on retiring before handing to Meyer – a prolific first full season in 2013/14 saw him score nine and bag four assists, earning him a place in Joachim Low’s provisional squad for the 2014 World Cup.

The German made his debut for his country in May of that year, and went on to feature three more times for Die Mannschaft.

So, where did it go wrong? How did a player on the brink of superstardom collapse into obscurity?

Well, his career fell flat after that summer. He continued to show glimpses of why he’d been compared to Mesut Ozil and Thomas Hassler in Germany, but they were just that – mere glimpses.

He registered seven goal contributions in 37 matches that season, as he was somewhat overshadowed by the breakthrough of a certain Leroy Sane, who had managed three league goals in just 13 appearances as an 18-year old winger.

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A young Leroy Sane in action for Schalke | VI-Images/Getty Images

And that’s where the cruel world of football media comes in. The ferocious hype around Meyer was replaced by the excitement that surrounded Sane, leaving the former to be, well, rather forgotten about.

The 2015/16 season was damning for the midfielder. He managed six goals and five assists in 35 games, while team mate Sane provided 14 goal contributions in 33 Bundesliga matches. Meyer ended the campaign having been included in Germany’s Olympics squad, while Sane had been named in the 23 for the European Championships.

Since then, Sane moved to Manchester City and is now at Bayern Munich, and Meyer made the switch to Selhurst Park after enduring two more lacklustre seasons at the Veltins-Arena.

And things haven’t panned out at Palace either.

We all know how underwhelming his time in England has been.

A goal and two assists in 29 Premier League games in his debut season, followed by no goal contributions in his second has led to the German featuring in the League Cup once and for the club’s reserve team this season – at least he’s managed to register an assist in one Premier League 2 appearance though, right?

That Under-23s match was Meyer’s final in a Palace shirt.

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Max Meyer in action in the League Cup | Pool/Getty Images

It’s hard to pinpoint an exact reason for the downward trajectory of his career but, like with so many players, confidence has been a real issue.

Meyer had to deal with the mass of hype that came with his first few steps into professional football, and he showed consistently throughout his first season why he was deserving of such attention. But a player cast aside by the media – and even his national team manager – when the next prodigy appears inevitably loses confidence.

After a failed spell at Palace, it’s hard to see a way back to where the footballing world thought he’d be by now, given the early stages of his career.

Meyer is still only 25 years of age, though – yes, he’s still only 25 – and has plenty of time to get his career back on track and showcase his undoubted talent at the right club, even though he may never fulfil the comparisons with Messi – shock.

Let’