Were Philipp Max a Premier League player he would be joint-second in the assists table at the moment, four behind Kevin De Bruyne and level with Leroy Sane. Having set up his teammates 10 times in the Bundesliga already this term – more than anyone else in the German top tier – the 24-year-old is in the midst of a breakout season. Max has the same number of league assists as Lionel Messi and only one less than Neymar, this from the left-back berth with FC Augsburg. What’s more, he has only played 22 league games this season (De Bruyne has played 25, Messi 23, Sane 22 and Neymar 18).
If those numbers are mightily impressive, especially for a defender, so too is Max’s all-round contribution to Augsburg’s success. Currently 7th in the Bundesliga table and in contention for a European spot, the Bavarian club is having one of its best seasons in recent memory. This is down in no small part to Max’s ability to balance attack and defence on the left, with Augsburg currently joint-fourth lowest in the ‘goals against’ column on 28. His remarkable final ball does not come at the price of defensive quality, with Max’s bombing runs, accurate crosses and whipped dead-ball deliveries matched with good positional and defensive instincts.
The son of Martin Max, the one-time Germany international who was a mainstay for Borussia Monchengladbach and Schalke 04 during the nineties, Philipp came through the academy ranks at Bayern Munich and then Schalke before struggling to break into the first team in Gelsenkirchen. Moved on to Karlsruher SC in the 2.Bundesliga before joining Augsburg in 2015, Max wasn’t even guaranteed a starting spot at the beginning of the season after facing stiff competition from Greece international Kostas Stafylidis.
With Stafylidis moving to Stoke on loan in January after seeing his playing time dwindle in light of his teammate’s swashbuckling performances, Max is now Augsburg’s most prized asset and undisputed Bundesliga assist king. Despite Max averaging just under an assist a game this season, he remains a relative unknown outside of Germany. That’s likely to change as we near the summer transfer window and murmurs of interest from overseas rise in frequency and pitch.
He has already been linked with Liverpool, Everton, Tottenham and Manchester United, all of whom could benefit from his storming forays forward and his bolt-from-the-blue long balls and key passes. Particularly formidable from free kicks and corners, he would be a huge bonus for any side looking to boost their productivity at the set piece.
In the meantime, Max has more pressing concerns with regards to the German national team. Uncapped at international level despite making three appearances as Germany’s Olympic football team won silver at Rio 2016, many in the German media are now calling for him to be included in Joachim Löw’s World Cup squad for Russia 2018.
‘More than keen’
Speaking after Augsburg’s defeat to RB Leipzig last weekend, Max said of his World Cup hopes: “Obviously being at a tournament [like the World Cup] is the biggest thing you can achieve as a professional footballer. It’s every child’s dream in Germany to play football and that’s understandable. As I said, I’m more than keen!”
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Considering the unique threat he brings at left-back, Löw may well consider including the Augsburg man in his plans. On the basis of this season, certainly, there are few players in world football who can rival Max for the thunderbolts of creativity which he brings to a team.