In a transfer market in which Gareth Bale is valued at around €100 million, it's hard to find bargains. But Gladbach made a real coup in early April when they confirmed the signing of Max Kruse from July 1. The attacker ended last season with 13 goals and 12 assists for Freiburg and Germany. And yet, due to an exceedingly modest release clause in his contract, he cost just €2.5 million.
Since joining Gladbach, Kruse has looked a complete natural in Lucien Favre's team. Although he may yet be a long-term replacement for 33-year-old winger Juan Arango, the Reinbek native has thus far fit in as a striker in a rather revolutionary system.
Kruse is a relatively small striker whose usual position is at the top of the Gladbach attack, but whose mobility allows him to draw defenders into other areas and open space for his teammates. He is flanked by Arango and Patrick Herrmann, with Raffael—strictly speaking, a classic playmaker—operating at almost the same forward depth.
Gladbach's formation could easily be interpreted as 4-4-2, but with two unorthodox strikers. It's a strange system, one that has left Bundesliga defenders hopelessly confused. And Kruse was just the player Favre needed to complete his free-flowing attack.
There were many other, higher-profile transfers this summer, but their slower adaptation only highlight Kruse's ability to have an instant impact. Bayern Munich spent a combined €62 million on Mario Goetze and Thiago Alcantara, but neither has settled yet and serious questions can be asked as to exactly where they can expect to fit into a lineup.
Dortmund also invested heavily this summer, with €13 million-man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan signing for a club-record €27.5 million fee. But although he's added a different type of quality to the BVB wing, the Gabon international has not exactly instigated a tactical revolution. And Mkhitaryan only began to find his form on Sunday.
Like Aubameyang at BVB, Leverkusen's Son Heung-Min has been a good addition but has not brought his club to the next level. And like Mkhitaryan, Schalke's Leon Goretzka is a player of enormous talent but one who will need some more time to adapt to the Bundesliga.
Kruse fits Favre's Gladbach like a glove, and the 25-year-old's influence is far beyond the two goals and two assists he's given: His arrival has coincided with a massive improvement in the club's attack.
Last season, Borussia were in the bottom half of the league table in terms of goals scored. After four games this season, they stand second in that category. Time will tell whether Gladbach's attacking form will remain, but for now they are outstanding—with much thanks to Kruse, the best €2.5 million spent in what has been a truly silly transfer season.