Croatian football expert Alex Holiga tells you everything you need to know about potentially Chelsea-bound Rijeka hotshot Andrej Kramaric...
The 60-second story
- Date of birth: June 19, 1991
- Place of birth: Zagreb, Croatia
- Height: 5ft 11in
- Position: Striker
- Club: Rijeka; 65 apps, 55 goals
- Country: Croatia; 4 apps, 2 goals
Andrej Kramaric was Croatian football’s golden boy and seemed destined for big things before mistreatment at his boyhood club, Dinamo Zagreb, almost broke his spirit. But he only came back stronger, eventually making the national team and attracting interest of clubs across Europe. Now 23, he’s ready to take the leap forward and fulfil his true potential.
The striker represented Croatia at every youth level and made his debut for Dinamo's senior team in 2009, one month shy of his 18th birthday. But Dinamo were somewhat impatient with the youngster - the club's coaches tended to favour more experienced players - so Kramaric became impatient, too. After excelling on loan at Dinamo’s 'farm club', Lokomotiva, he found himself third in the pecking order for the striker position at the start of the 2013/14 season. He complained to the press about a lack of playing time and was immediately transfer listed. On the last day of window, the ambitious Rijeka grabbed him and he hasn’t looked back since.
He has just kept improving under the tutelage of Rijeka’s respected Slovenian coach, Matjaz Kek. While he was, frankly, still not good enough to make the 23-man Croatia World Cup squad this summer, now he’s a valuable member of the national team: since September he's made four appearances and scored in two. He’s showing huge promise and fans in Croatia have extremely high hopes for him - a finisher of his calibre hasn’t been seen in the domestic league since Eduardo's last year at Dinamo before joining Arsenal.
Why you need to know him
Kramaric can score. A lot. His goal return this season amounts to 28 in 30 appearances for Rijeka, including a hat trick in a 3-1 Europa League win over Feyenoord and a five-goal bonanza against his former club, Lokomotiva. Last season’s tally was 30 in 41 games, among them a Croatian Cup match that Rijeka won 11-0, with Kramaric stuffing the lower league BSK Zmaj’s net no fewer than eight times.
He’s both fast and technical, blessed with an excellent first touch and has a wide repertoire of shots. Despite being a lethal finisher with great anticipation and composure in front of the goal, Kramaric is not your typical No. 9. He doesn’t wait for the ball to come to him, but instead likes to drop back or pull wide to get it himself. Many of his goals came in games in which he played off or behind the centre-forward, moving channels and roaming between the lines. He has said himself that the style he wants to emulate would be “something between Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski”.
Kramaric is also quite a nice guy to add to the package: well-behaved, professional and determined to succeed.
Not very strong, Kramaric can get outmuscled by defenders who mark him closely, so he tends to avoid physical contact and looks to sneak around opponents and into the box. He's not a huge threat in the air, either, and he could certainly improve a lot in his defensive play.
Croatia manager Niko Kovac: “Kramaric is a genuine goal getter, he reminds me of Davor Suker. And those dummies? You don’t see something like that very often - he doesn’t just beat opponents with his dribbles, he throws the whole stand off balance.”
Did you know...?
Kramaric scored at an insane rate in Dinamo Zagreb's youth ranks. He came to the club aged six and bagged over 450 goals over the years - and yet he was still not deemed good enough after graduating from their academy.
- Shooting 8
- Heading 4
- Tackling 3
- Pace 7
- Dribbling 9
- Creativity 6
- Work-rate 7
- Positioning 7
What happens next
Several Italian clubs, as well as Atletico Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur and Borussia Dortmund, are thought to be interested, but the only official bid so far was from Leicester City. The Foxes reportedly offered Rijeka £7.9 million for Kramaric’s services, but the player was far from enthusiastic about playing for a team facing an uphill battle against relegation. It would appear, however, that Chelsea are now favourites to sign him and a January move for a similar fee is rumoured to be as good as done.