Chris Richards saw his immediate future sorted in the last moments of the German transfer window, signing a long-term extension with FC Bayern then immediately securing a season-long loan to Hoffenheim.
The 21 year-old central defender had what was widely considered to be a breakout half-season at Hoffenheim after joining on the team on a loan deal during the winter transfer window.
He went on to start 11 of their final 15 games, with his only four absences being due to injuries. Hoffenheim finished the 2020-21 Bundesliga season in a relatively safe 11th position, and are thus far in a similar position in the new season, sitting ninth after three games.
The team confirmed the loan on their website, with sporting director Alexander Rosen stating that the young American will be “…an important and valuable option for the central defender position.”
Hoffenheim are thin in the the middle of their defense, with veterans and previous starting pair Benjamin Hübner and Ermin Bičakčić both sidelined for close to a full year so far with major injuries. This will give Richards a strong chance to supplant either of the current central pairing of Stefan Posch or Kevin Vogt to reclaim his place in the starting lineup.
Simultaneously, Richards secured his long-term financial future by signing a contract extension with his parent club FC Bayern. The team confirmed the extension and loan in an announcement, stating “FC Bayern have extended defender Chris Richards‘ contract until 2025 and loaned the 21-year-old US international out to TSG Hoffenheim for the season.”
The move back to Hoffenheim had ben rumored throughout the summer, with many reports suggesting that the team was eager to sign him to a permanent deal, only to be put off by a high asking price by the Bavarians.
For a brief few moments, it looked as though Richards might have an opening to earn significant playing time in Munich when starting central defender Dayot Upamecano went down with an injury early in their 5-0 win over Hertha over the weekend. However head coach Julian Nagelsmann opted for another youngster – Tanguy Nianzou – as the halftime replacement, likely signaling that the American’s departure was imminent.
Richards was not selected for the current round of World Cup qualifying games, meaning he will have a solid run of practice after reuniting with the team, before their next Bundesliga game against Mainz on Sept. 11.
The one bittersweet part of this move is Richards will be ineligible to participate in Hoffenheim’s German Cup campaign due to his second-half appearance for Bayern in their first-round victory. This means he will have to be a spectator for their second-round game against Holstein Kiel in late-October, as well as any other games should they advance further in the competition.