New Croatian star, Andrej Kramaric could be the find of the coming season. (FILE PHOTO)
Croatia tend to produce an immense number of raw football talents that over the years have put the small Balkan nation on the forefront of world football. Be it the golden generation of the nineties or the clutch of modern Croatian players that ply their trade in the lucrative leagues of Europe, the football system of the former Yugoslav state needs to be admired for the way things are run as far as nurturing young talents is concerned. The Croatian U-21 side is full of players who will catch the eyes of scouts at any point of time from around the globe whenever they take the field. Yet, surprisingly, the talents of one youngster went unnoticed as the winter transfer window passed by.
For a long time, Barclays Premier League side West Ham United followed Andrej Kramaric’s progress at Dinamo Zagreb and now at Lokomotiva on loan. Just when it looked that West Ham manager Sam Allardyce was considering a strong bid to bring the 22-year old to London, talks suddenly stalled for reasons beyond anyone’s knowledge. The young boy from Zagreb will continue to play for Lokomotiva for the rest of the season, knowing that a lucrative overseas offer is just around the corner if he keeps on scoring goals as he has been doing for his current club, which alerted a lot of big fishes from across the continent.
The five feet ten inches Kramaric has graduated from the famed youth setup at Dinamo Zagreb, the same setup that produced the likes of Davor Suker, Robert Prosinecki, Eduardo, Drazan Jerkovic and plenty of others who turned out to be Croatia’s national pride. Andrej Kramaric is a versatile striker who is mobile enough to run behind defences and rather than waiting for crosses or balls to come to him, tends to run towards the ball, engulfing his opposition with an air of unpredictability about his play. Eight goals in his first twelve games for Lokomotiva earned him great praise not only from Croatia but across the Adriatic from Italy where Chievo and Fiorentina are lining up summer bids to land the Croat.
Dinamo Zagreb boast of a proud history in Croatian football in producing great players and Kramaric, at the age of six, joined the setup and went on to become the club’s most successful goalscorer in history. Having scored 450 goals in his entire youth career, Andrej Kramaric is the best youth scorer in Dinamo’s history. No wonder he was dubbed the new Davor Suker by Zagreb’s fanatic fan base. On June 30, 2009, Dinamo Zagreb provided him with the No. 9 jersey, the number worn by great players such as Davor Suker (1998 World Cup Golden Boot winner), Zlatko Kranjcar (one of the best players Dinamo Zagreb ever produced) and Drazan Jerkovic (some say – the best Croatian player ever). There is no doubt how Andrej Kramaric is rated highly in Croatia and particularly in Zagreb.
Having been involved with every Croatian youth team of all age groups, it is a matter of time when the national team calls him up to showcase his talents at the highest level. A player who has scored 16 goals in his very first season at Lokomotiva at such a short space of time, certainly knows the back of the net and this quality would come in handy in the Premier League if the player is at all keen on a move to the world’s most exciting, if not the best, league in the world.
West Ham, in relation to their earlier interest in the player, should have moved quickly for Kramaric’s services to provide a competitive look at the Hammers’ frontline with Carlton Cole, Andy Carroll and Ricardo Vaz Te already in the picture. With Jermain Defoe out for a considerable time and Tottenham playing with a strikerless formation, Andre Villas-Boas could have unearthed a real talent at a bargain price as the North Londoners push for the coveted Champions League spot. Maybe Dinamo and young Kramaric are waiting for the right offers at the right time come this summer. In 2011, Red Star Belgrade were interested in bringing the kid to Serbia under the guidance of Robert Prosinecki but Dinamo instead loaned him to Lokomotiva where he became an instant hit, alerting the then national boss Slaven Bilic. Although Kramaric is yet to receive his maiden call up to the senior national side, he is one of many young talents who are lining up to impress current national team manger Igor Stimac.