Andrej Kramaric leads the 2020/21 Bundesliga scoring charts ahead of Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland, but what else is there to know about the Hoffenheim frontman? bundesliga.com finds out…
1. Top of the shots
Thanks to his strike in the 2-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt, Kramaric is the first Hoffenheim player to reach six goals after three matchdays of a Bundesliga season. The Croatian’s postage-stamp effort means he has now scored against all of the 22 Bundesliga clubs he has faced, whilst extending his hot streak to a career-best 11 goals in his last five league matches. Four landed against Borussia Dortmund alone on the final day of 2019/20, while he succeeded where Paris Saint-Germain megastars Neymar and Kylian Mbappe failed by putting two past Manuel Neuer as Hoffenheim ended Bayern Munich’s 10-month unbeaten run in all competitions on 27 September 2020. Lewandowski – Bundesliga top scorer for three years running – and Haaland are on five and four goals respectively heading into Matchday 4.
2. Big cat diaries
Accounting for 13 of Hoffenheim’s 18 goals in their six matches in all competitions between Matchday 33 of 2019/20 and the October 2020 international break, Kramaric is a bona-fide apex predator of a striker. Notwithstanding those tigerish qualities in front of goal, it was another big cat that piqued his interest in the animal world in his younger days. “I love animals, as my girlfriend is a vet,” he told bundesliga.com. “To be honest, when I was a kid, my favourite animal was a cheetah, because it’s the fastest animal in the world.”
3. Inspired by greats
Growing up in the Croatian capital of Zagreb, it’s no surprise Kramaric looked to legendary countryman Davor Suker for inspiration – though he also had soft spots for Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi. “When I was a child, Suker and Ronaldinho were the two players who were magic for me,” he recalled. “When you talk about the best players in the world though, it’s Messi, no doubt. It’s incredible what he’s done, and is still doing. He’s at the age now where he can’t repeat some of the things he could do when he was younger. But it’s never boring to watch him.”
4. A Kovac student
Those in the know no doubt say the same thing about Kramaric – former Croatia, Frankfurt and Bayern coach Niko Kovac very much included. Kovac handed Kramaric his senior international debut on 4 September 2014, and even likened the future Hoffenheim record-breaker to childhood muse Suker, Croatia’s all-time top scorer. To this day, Kramaric holds the only man to win a Bundesliga-DFB Cup double as a player and coach in the highest regard. “He is very important to me,” he said of his relationship with the current Monaco boss. “It was under him that I won my first cap and scored my first goal for the national team. I will never forget that. He’ll always be a special person for me who gives me a special energy.”
5. Leicester’s one that got away
Like Suker, Kramaric earned his stripes at Dinamo Zagreb. Despite scoring a club record 450 goals at youth level, and 28 in 31 competitive appearances for Rijeka in his final months in his native Croatia, he arrived in Sinsheim in January 2015 as a relative unknown. His one-year stint with Leicester City had been underwhelming at best – four goals in 20 games – but he put his head down on German soil and has no regrets about missing out on the Foxes’ unheralded English Premier League title win.
Also Read: Bundesliga Matchday-4: Top Scorers Haaland, Kramaric Go Head-To-Head As Hoffenheim Host Dortmund
He was too busy writing his own fairy tale, after all, his five goals and four assists helping dig Die Kraichgauer out of a relegation-sized hole in the second half of 2015/16. A permanent move to the Rhein-Neckar-Arena followed and the goal glut continued. The Julian Nagelsmann disciple struck 15 times in 2016/17 as Hoffenheim secured an unprecedented top-four finish.
6. Chelsea’s loss
There was a time when Kramaric could have donned another club’s blue-and-white threads. The year was 2015 and the month January when he turned down Chelsea in favour of joining Leicester City. Rumour has it the Zagreb native was all set to ship out to Stamford Bridge, only for the deal to fall through as the Londoners were unable to guarantee first-team football. Instead, he arrived at Leicester for a fee reportedly in the region of €9.8 million.
“I never had a chance to meet [Chelsea boss Jose] Mourinho, but it’s true there was an option for me to join Chelsea.” Kramaric told the Vecemji List newspaper.
7. Delaying the inevitable
Kramaric’s early days back in Zagreb are the source of yet another ‘what if?’ moment. The Hoffenheim sharpshooter had the chance to play under Croatia legend Robert Prosinecki at Red Star Belgrade in 2011, in a deal that would have made him the first Croat to play in the Serbian league since the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Yet Zdravko Mamic, the Dinamo Zagreb owner, refused to even negotiate with the Serbian giants, issuing a hands-off warning to all concerned: “Andrej is not going – not to Belgrade, not anywhere.”
8. Hoffenheim’s all-time best
Everything happens for a reason, or so the saying goes. Kramaric’s move to Hoffenheim certainly paid off. With 68 goals in 132 Bundesliga appearances, he has become the Sinsheim outfit’s record scorer, outstripping Sejad Salihovic’s 49-strike tally by some distance. Despite the deluge of admirers, the Hoffenheim No.22 only has eyes for Die Kraichgauer. “When I joined Hoffenheim or when I was a kid, I never thought I’d be the best striker in the history of some club,” Kramaric – with over 75 goals in all competitions for the south-west outfit – told bundesliga.com. “I’m close to being a club legend like Salihovic. I’ll be happy if I score more goals, make more assists and we have success. I’m really happy here, and I wouldn’t complain if I finished my career at Hoffenheim.”
9. World Cup silver
The talents Mamic fought tooth and nail to retain were laid bare to the watching world at Russia 2018. Croatia reached the final of the FIFA World Cup that year, ultimately coming up short to an Mbappe-inspired France. Kramaric played in every game, scoring a fine effort in the quarter-final victory over host nation Russia to help his countryman emulate Suker and the class of 1998, who finished third. To date he has made 48 appearances for the national team, producing 13 goals and four assists.
10. Heart of go[a]ld
An A-grade taker of chances, Kramaric also knows a thing or two about giving back. As well as his 50-plus career assists, he donated the boots he wore when he scored his first goal in the English Premier League for Leicester against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. The signed kicks fetched £1,710 on eBay, with all proceeds going to charity. Imagine how much collectors would be willing to pay for the adidas X19.3’s that handed Dortmund their second-heaviest home defeat in the Bundesliga, or the pair that outgunned the great Lewandowski – “the best striker in the world” in Kramaric’s estimation – early in 2020/21…
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