Why Manchester United Should Target Christoph Kramer Instead of Ilkay Gundogan

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentNovember 18, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 24:  Ilkay Gundogan of Borussia Dortmund during a Borussia Dortmund training session ahead of the UEFA Champions League final match against FC Bayern Muenchen at Wembley Stadium on May 24, 2013 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Instead of wining and dining Borussia Dortmund's Ilkay Gundogan, Manchester United should target Bayer Leverkusen's Christoph Kramer, who's been exceptional on loan at Borussia Monchengladbach.

When Rene Meulensteen, Sir Alex Ferguson's former deputy, tweeted United should go for Gundogan, you would have reacted with a perplexed look if you follow German football. 

On August 15, Dortmund released a statement saying Gundogan "is expected to be out for two weeks" after sustaining a back injury during Germany's 3-3 draw against Paraguay.

Two weeks later, Dortmund team doctor Markus Braun said Gundogan will need another month to rehab "a stress reaction in the lower spine." 

If you read the last sentence in Dortmund's press release, it suggests the severity of Gundogan's back injury was misdiagnosed, via BVB.de: "The extent of the injury was discovered after an examination at the Knappschaft Hospital on Monday following the midfielder's return to Dortmund." 

Gundogan sat out the months of September and October and has yet to play in November. 

In the lead-up to Germany's friendly against England, Joachim Loew said, via Bundesliga.com: "I'm sure we'll have Ilkay [Gundogan] back again too."

Gundogan, who has resumed training, will be back for Dortmund, but on the bench. 

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LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 21:  Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp faces the media during a Borussia Dortmund press conference ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group F match against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on October 21, 2013 in London, England.  (
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images


Like Ferguson, Klopp doesn't make sentimental decisions. 

What Gundogan did in the past, taking up the mantle after Sahin ditched Klopp for Real Madrid, will not have a bearing on whether he starts this season. 

Mohamed Zidan, Klopp's first elite player at Mainz who became a bit-part player for Dortmund, will tell you that. 

Lucas Barrios, who had successive seasons of 20-plus goals under Klopp, lost his starting place due to injury and was usurped by Robert Lewandowski, will tell you that. 

Who would be the best player to tell Gundogan that waltzing back into Klopp's starting XI is a pipe dream? 

Sahin, as seven of his first eight league games in his second spell were off the bench. 

He only won back his starting position last season, as Sven Bender and Sebastian Kehl were out against FreiburgSahin was the Man of the Match that game.

Now Sahin is Klopp's most vital midfielder again, in part because of Gundogan's extended layoff. 

Sahin leads the club in tackles per game (3.8) and passes per game (68.7), is third in interceptions per game (2.2) and is the club's second-highest-rated midfielder, according to Bild newspaper's player ratings

Bender, Sahin's partner in midfield, has won back the ball 66 times in 11 Bundesliga games. 

Gundogan isn't just behind those two, but he will also be competing with Kehl for the backup spot.

Kehl, who has returned from an ankle ligament injury, sat on the bench against Wolfsburg and Arsenal. Therefore, he is in front of Gundogan from a physical perspective by a considerable distance. 

If you're on the Gundogan-to-United bandwagon, quit imploring your club to sign Gundogan when no one can definitively say if he will return as the Gundogan of old. 

Is there an alternative to him? Yes.

It is Christoph Kramer, a stylish 6'3" central midfielder, whose partnership with former United transfer target Granit Xhaka is a main factor why Monchengladbach are fourth in the Bundesliga.

Kramer and Xhaka combine to complete 89.7 percent of 133.2 passes per game, which is key to Lucien Favre's tactical ploy in playing a No. 9-less formation.

Max Kruse and Raffael drop deep, receive an accurate pass and either score or create (12 goals and eight assists between them). 

LEAGUE ONLYGundogan [1]Kramer Xhaka Ander HerreraTom CleverleyMichael Carrick
Passes Per Game58.659.673.738.956.077.0
Pass Success %86.290.988.580.989.786.8
Long Pass Success %76.988.981.760.979.176.1
Tackles Per Game2.
Interceptions Per Game2.

[1] 2012-13 statistics used; everyone else is 2013-14. 

Source: kicker.de

Before you say, "Cleverley is statistically comparable to Kramer":

You're right and this is why you should never judge a player on statistics alone. 

Subjectively speaking, Kramer looks more assertive, is technically better and affects the game more. 

Kramer will take the ball into open space—he averages more dribbles per game (1.9) than Antonio Valencia (1.7) and Ashley Young (0.8)—and cause indecision in the minds of opposing players, who know they have to mark Kruse and Raffael.

Kramer is technically brilliant and routinely embarrasses players who tackle without conviction. 

He possesses a sleek Maradona turn, he can nutmeg players and he is two-footed.

In comparison, Cleverley is predictable, he doesn't take on players (0.3 DPG) and he is not suited to a 4-4-2 where the central midfielders have to be able to conjure up moments of brilliance. 

OK, you might be wondering: "If this Kramer kid is so good, why isn't he a starter at Leverkusen?"

Stefan Reinartz, Gonzalo Castro, Lars Bender, Simon Rolfes and Emre Can are why Kramer has been sent on loan to Monchengladbach.

Yes, he does have a two-year loan deal with Monchengladbach, but United's money will take care of that issue. 

According to Leverkusen's official websiteKramer "even attracted interest from foreign clubs including Benfica". 

Benfica were right about Nemanja Matic, Ramires and Axel Witsel. 

United can be right about Kramer. 

Statistics via WhoScoredFFT Stats ZoneSquawka and Transfermarkt.
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