It is three weeks shy of a year since Max Meyer joined Crystal Palace on a sweltering August afternoon in central London. His first interview was stood on a sun-trapped rooftop in the heart of Soho, where he posed for photographs with the club’s media team to embody the role of the new ‘Meyer of London’, overlooking a skyline that has now become home.
By his own admission, Meyer’s English was limited and his new moniker was met with mild confusion. A quick Google Translate of “Mayor“ resolved that issue, with the help of his girlfriend, who explained the wordplay and term in German: “Bürgermeister von London”.
The last 12 months has undoubtedly been a whirlwind for the 23-year-old – moving to a new city in a new country, joining an established Premier League squad which had a full pre-season under their belts as a group, with no fellow German speakers to help ease the integration.
But integrate he has, as the midfielder showed huge promise in his first season in red and blue, becoming a key figure in his new club’s record-breaking Premier League points haul.
Reflecting on his time with Palace, the German cuts a relaxed figure sat on the steps of the club’s hotel base in the sleepy town of Yverdon-les-Bains in Switzerland, overlooking manicured lawns and mountains in the distance, on a balmy summer evening. His English is markedly improved, thanks to studious commitment to English lessons most days after training.
“I have good memories of the day I signed at Crystal Palace," he said.
“It was a very big step for me. I didn’t know anyone personally in the club, and no-one speaks German. My English was not that good – I had to learn every day to learn a little bit and understand the players. It was not that easy for me. But everyone in the club was very good to me.
“The year was over very quick. Now, I’m feeling good and really happy, I like to play for Crystal Palace in this amazing country and city. For me London is the best city in Europe. You cannot compare with my city where I come from… you have good cities in Germany, but no city is so good like London. I enjoy it every day.”
Whilst he acclimatised to his new surroundings, team-mates and playing style and built up his match fitness, Meyer was restricted to appearances from the bench during Palace’s first six games of the season. He said: “The problem was that I came just one week before the first game – so I had no pre-season with the team. I needed to learn the other players, so the first six-eight games I didn’t play in the Premier League. But after that I had several games when I started, in the league and in the cups too. I played a lot at the end – and it was ok.
“We have so many games in the season – more than 40 games. You can’t play every game as a starter, but I hope I can start more games in the league next season.”
Meyer had 22 starts last season, and 14 times he came off the bench. Indeed, a full pre-season will undoubtedly improve Meyer’s early season prospects, and there is a growing mood within the camp that the upcoming campaign is a huge opportunity for the midfielder after a promising beginning.
He has already set himself one key personal target. “I need to score more, that’s what I think. I have to score more – that’s what I’m trying to do, then I’ll be even happier than last season. I scored just two goals, that’s not enough for me.
"Last season was my first season in a new country and league, and I think the second year will be even better. I hope so: more goals, more assists, more points as a team.
“We have the quality in the team to finish of course in the top 10, maybe higher. When I compare with my old team (Schalke) – we finished my final season in second place. This team has a lot more quality – we can do better next season. I think we played well last season, after not a great start. If we play like we did near the end, I think we can finish higher.”
Roy Hodgson often employed Meyer on the left-hand side of central midfield, as well as a purely central role. It is a change from his latter years at Schalke, where he sat as a defensive midfielder. “My position in Schalke was too deep. I like this position (at Palace) more; I am looking to attack more. It’s a good mix for my position - I like the position the gaffer gave me – whether it’s on the left or the middle, it doesn’t matter.”
Meyer’s flexible attitude to his playing position will undoubtedly please the manager, and the relationship he has built with Hodgson is a key reason for the German’s fulfilment since making the switch to south London. “I like him as a person – he’s such a gentleman and a good person. I’ve never had a manager like him.
“He’s so, so good to us players. He’s not a friend – but he’s…,” pausing, “it’s difficult for me to explain in English. I think you know what I mean?”
Like a father figure?
“Yeah, he’s very good to us. To everyone in the team. Everyone feels good with him as our manager.”
Supportive words from the coaching staff and Hodgson clearly boost the German, but he also takes heart from the way Palace fans have taken to him. “I’ll be honest. After each game I look at the comments on Facebook and Instagram, and of course I’m very happy when I see the fans trust me and they want me to play. I really feel it as a player.
“From the first day when I came here, the fans were very good to me. I like it a lot. It makes me proud to play for this club and our fans, I want to show them next season that I can do better.”
A settled and determined Max Meyer, with the full backing of Hodgson, his team-mates and the Palace fan base really promises to be quite a prospect.