Andrej Kramaric has already scored 24 goals this season and has the potential to become the “next Robert Lewandowski”—Borussia Dortmund should definitely use the opportunity to sign the Croatian marksman in January.
On November 16, Croatia will play a Euro 2016 qualifier against Italy in Milan and many eyes will be fixed on one man in that chequered shirt. The 23-year-old striker is in great form for his club, Rijeka, he’s expected to start for his national team and transfer rumours are abundant. According to Calciomercato, via Tribal Football, Kramaric is being tracked by Inter, AC Milan and Atalanta.
“Will I sign for one of these teams in January? Everything is possible,” Kramaric said. “In the future I’d like to play for a top European team playing an attacking brand of football.”
According to other Italian and Croatian sources, via Soccernews, the list of potential suitors also includes Chelsea, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund. That last one seems to be Kramaric’s favourite.
He told the 24 sata daily newspaper (article in Croatian) that he often watches Borussia play and admires the mentality that Jurgen Klopp installed in the team. Also, in a recent interview for Croatian TV station RTL, he said his favourite players at the moment are Robert Lewandowski and Mario Gotze, both former Dortmund men who were later snapped up by Bayern Munich.
It isn’t hard to see the logic behind a possible move to Signal Iduna Park. Dortmund are really struggling domestically this season; they find themselves at the bottom of the Bundesliga table, having scored just 11 goals in 10 matches. They create chances, but Klopp’s strike force is highly unconvincing.
Three centre-forwards were signed this summer in an attempt to compensate for losing Lewandowski to Bayern, but Ciro Immobile, Adrian Ramos and the injured Ji Dong-Won have only managed to net four league goals between them so far. Although they’ve been doing much better in the Champions League, a competition in which Dortmund have won all four of their group-stage matches and Immobile and Ramos have provided six of the team's 13 goals, the team’s Bundesliga form and lack of firepower are highly alarming.
So could Kramaric be a the solution? What kind of player is he?
Well, for starters, he's the kind who can score a lot of goals. And not just in Croatian league, where he’s leading the charts with 16 goals in 13 appearances this season—he found the net in Rijeka’s 2-2 Europa League draw against Sevilla and scored a hat-trick in their 3-1 win against Feyenoord. Not just for Rijeka, either, where he boasts an incredible return of 49 in 57 club appearances over the last 14 months—Kramaric already has two goals in three matches for his national team, scoring against Malta and Azerbaijan in Euro 2016 qualifiers.
While he obviously is a lethal finisher, he is not what you would call a “typical” striker. Many of those goals came in games in which he played behind the centre-forward in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-1-1 formation. He is the kind of player who likes to drop back to take the ball, pull wide to create space for others or roam between the lines and run channels—in the aforementioned TV interview, he actually singled out both Lewandowski and Gotze for these characteristics and said that’s how he wants to play.
Kramaric’s path resembles that of Lewandowski in one specific element. The Polish superstar was discarded by his hometown club, Legia Warsaw, before proving his worth for rivals Lech Poznan. Although he’s now Rijeka’s main man, Kramaric is a Dinamo Zagreb kid through and through.
Born in Zagreb and growing up just a few tram stops away from the Maksimir Stadium, Kramaric first came to Dinamo when he was six, before he even started school. Over the years, he scored 450 goals in various age groups, via Eurosport, and he played for Croatia in every youth category.
But Dinamo were impatient with him. After excelling on loan at Lokomotiva Zagreb in the 2012-13 season, he came back to the club, only to find himself third choice for the striker role. He complained to the press about lack of playing time and was immediately transfer listed. In the summer of 2013, on the last day of transfer window, he was signed by the ambitious Rijeka side.
There’s some confusion about his contract, which runs out next summer, but the club have an option of extending it for further two years. Initially, it contained a release clause, which led many to believe Kramaric would be available for €2-2.5 million in January, but that clause may not be there anymore. Both the player and club representatives refuse to discuss the amount of money it would take to let him go, but a January move is becoming increasingly likely.
Even if he transfer fee is going to be much higher than that, Kramaric is worth it.
That goes especially for Dortmund, who look like an ideal match for his style. The way he’s playing now, offers are bound to come in and Rijeka just won’t be able to hold onto him. It’s a very good opportunity for Jurgen Klopp—he should take it.