Andrej Kramaric was a target for many top European clubs, yet is now settling into the harsh realities a Premier League relegation battle.
Leicester manager Nigel Pearson splashed out a club record £10million to sign Kramaric in the January transfer window. Arriving from Croatian club HNK Rijeka, the striker has already made an excellent impression with the Foxes.
The transfer was seen as a coup for them, as top clubs like Juventus and Chelsea had been interested in Kramaric. However, the father of the striker was openly extremely unhappy with the striker’s decision to choose the Foxes.
The agent of Kramaric was huge in ensuring that the father’s wishes were not followed through, allowing what appeared an unlikely move to Leicester to materialise.
The striker’s agent was keen to explain his reasons, and certainly did not hold back: “If he chooses Chelsea, Kramaric won’t ever set foot on the Stamford Bridge pitch.
“All that ‘glitter’ lasts two or three days. It’s true that Leicester doesn’t sound that attractive, but the 19 games for such a player is a real opportunity to showcase his talent. Prove yourself – you either got it or you don’t.”
Promisingly, thus far the answers appears to be the former for the young striker, and the regular opportunities in the first-team appear to have justified the agent’s decision.
Kramaric has adjusted quickly to the fast tempo of English football, already opening his goalscoring accounts in both the Premiership and the FA Cup through strikes at Arsenal and Aston Villa respectively. The 23-year-old has also put in some good performances, appear to corroborate the faith put in him by Foxes manager Nigel Pearson, who had been scouting the striker for some time.
“We’ve watched Andrej for a long time so we knew we were signing a player that could add great quality to English football. He’s an extremely talented young footballer and potentially a very important addition for us,” Pearson said.
Moreover, at this rate, if the Foxes are relegated, one would think there is every chance that the striker could get a move to another club with relative ease. On this note, you would assume there is a relegation release clause in his contract at a figure tempting for top clubs, particularly with the funds provided to Premier League clubs by the huge new TV deal.
Kramaric is a second striker, whose abilities are primarily technical, enjoying the opportunity where possible to play off a front man by dropping deeper. Kramaric described himself as “something between Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski” which appears a relatively fair assessment in terms of his playing style at the very least.
Kramaric started at hometown club Dinamo Zagreb, scoring over 450 goals at youth level, but managing just 11 goals in 52 first-team matches. A successful loan spell brought 20 goals and 10 assists from 45 games at Lokomotiv Zagreb, but at his parent club things did not work out once Kramaric returned.
HNK moved to sign Kramaric, and this brought instant rewards, with an outstanding 27 goals from 34 games a huge part in winning the Croatian Cup. This unbelievable form set scouts across Europe purring and continued into earlier this season with little sign of stopping.
This season Kramaric grabbed 28 goals in 30 games, though the most notable of these were the six from eight in the Europa League. These goals, primarily an excellent hat-trick against Feyenoord showed that this form could not simply be assigned to a perceived lack of depth in quality in the Croatian Leagues.
The sensational form at HNK naturally led to top European clubs chasing Kramaric, and also brought full international recognition – the striker also has two goals from four games for Croatia, after 22 in 53 at youth level.
Kramaric certainly is a hot property, and whilst Leicester should be delighted to have him, the reality is that given their probable relegation he could well be on the move again this summer.