Manuel Veth –
Max Kruse was Werder Bremen’s life insurance last season. The 29-year-old forward scored 15 goals in 23 Bundesliga games and was one of the main reasons for Werder Bremen’s run towards the Europa League places after the club finished the Hinrunde in 15th place.
The Grün-Weißen even dropped down to 16th spot on matchday 21 and looked locked in the relegation battle for the rest of the season. Instead, however, Werder won nine out of their last 13 games and were within one game of finishing on a Europa League qualification spot.
Defeats to 1.FC Köln (3-4), 1899 Hoffenheim (5-3) and Borussia Dortmund (3-4) meant that Werder lost out on finishing sixth or seventh, which would have been enough last season to qualify for the Europa League. The last three defeats, in fact, indicate how close Werder were in the end. Playing against three teams that would eventually qualify for Europe—Köln for the Europa League, Hoffenheim for the Champions League qualifiers and Dortmund for the Champions League group stage—and holding their own in what were three open matches.
Hence, with a little luck, Werder could have perhaps finished higher than eighth and would now look forward to a season in Europe. But the firm finish to the season means that many in Bremen now look forward to a season that could finally mark the return of Werder Bremen to Europe.
Max Kruse was Key in Werder Bremen’s Run to the Top Last Season
For Werder’s European plan to succeed they will have to do everything in their power to retain Max Kruse. The striker was a big part of Werder’s success in the second half of the season.
Werder struggled without the striker, who missed the first ten games with a knee injury. Max Kruse then took a few weeks to gel with his teammates, and it was not until matchday 13 that he scored his first goal in the Bundesliga for Werder Bremen.
Max Kruse’s goals against Ingolstadt and Hertha Berlin on matchday 13 and 14 were then instrumental towards securing three points for Werder Bremen. He then scored in the defeats to Bayern and Augsburg on matchday 19 and 20 before bagging two more goals in Werder’s 2-0 victory over Darmstadt on matchday 23.
The two goals against Darmstadt in fact somewhat opened the floodgates for him and meant the start of an unbelievable run for both Kruse and Werder Bremen. Between matchday 26 and matchday 34, Max Kruse scored an incredible nine goals—including four goals against Ingolstadt on matchday 30—which made him one of the hottest strikers in Europe at the time.
It also demonstrates how important Kruse had become for Werder Bremen. Without the striker, the club was at best mediocre. But the relationship goes both ways. Max Kruse is not an easy character. Known for his love of Nutella and his obsession to play poker professionally around the world Kruse is considered the type of player who needs a club that accepts his off field behaviour.
At his previous clubs, Freiburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach Kruse’s Nutella breakfasts and poker trips were allowed. His extravagant lifestyle was, however, not tolerated at VfL Wolfsburg, who he joined in the summer of 2015, where the club wanted to change the striker’s habits. As a result, Kruse’s form suffered in Wolfsburg especially after it emerged that he had lost €75,000 in a taxi after a poker tournament.
Max Kruse has Some Extravagant Tendencies
Wolfsburg’s battle against the striker’s extravaganza meant that Kruse never felt entirely comfortable in die Autostadt. Hence, when Werder came calling in the summer of 2016 Kruse was happy to move on. Werder ended up paying €7.5 million for the forward and gave Kruse the room he needed to not only play his football but also to follow his lifestyle off the pitch.
The result has been described above. The problem, however, is that Kruse is rumoured to have an exit clause in his contract that will expire on July 31. Furthermore, clubs around Europe have registered Kruse’s goal scoring ability. Kruse, on the other hand, is 29-years-old and knows that he has one last chance to sign a big money contract.
It was, therefore, no surprise that Kruse has been recently linked with a move to Spartak Moscow and Liverpool FC. Both clubs have the necessary cash to pay the transfer clause and also offer the sort of wage Kruse that could entice the forward to leave the comfort zone that was created for him at Werder.
Whether such a move will happen remains to be seen, however. Max Kruse, after all, has the dream of playing at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia next summer and although Bundestrainer Joachim Löw is not the biggest fan of Kruse’s love of Nutella and Poker another strong season in the Bundesliga would make it hard for Löw to ignore the Werder striker.
Kruse staying the club would surely be good news for die Grün-Weißen especially after they failed to sign Davie Selke as well as hang on to Serge Gnabry. Hence, Werder Bremen will be motivated to do everything in their power to hang on to the striker and given the uncertainty that comes with a transfer in a World Cup year the club might have pretty good chance of keeping the goal-getter in their midst.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and social media junior editor at Bundesliga.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.