Max kruse moves to 1. Fc union: iron eccentric

The signing of Max Kruse is a transfer coup for Union Berlin. Club and player have much more in common than you might think.

Appreciates the coolness factor: Kruse decides for 1. FC Union despite better offers Photo: dpa

Now, the number of followers in social media is not always meaningful to measure the popularity of a soccer club or footballer. But it does give an indication of popularity. And it shows that that of a player like Max Kruse, who has 410,000 subscribers on the Instagram platform, far exceeds that of Bundesliga club Union Berlin (107,000).

Does a collaboration make sense simply because the figure shines far beyond the Alte Forsterei? It takes a closer look at why the Eisernen and the eccentric have come together. Both have that certain something – and they are united by the ambition to defy the establishment with a different approach. Unfocused and unadjusted.

Kruse was quoted on Union’s website as saying that he was happy "to meet a cool new club in Union, which has made great progress in recent years. Their managing director Oliver Ruhnert, in turn, held that "The fact that a player of this quality, who is free on a transfer, has decided to join Union despite offers that are economically much more lucrative, shows that Union as a club can score with other values." The 32-year-old Kruse has apparently been quite easy to have for the adventure of leading a promoted club in the darned second year to the next stage of development in terms of soccer.

It could be a win-win situation for both sides: The all-rounder, who can’t be pressed into any mold, demonstrates a high Bundesliga level, while the outsider, who doesn’t fit into any mold, will be able to help Union develop its game. Just fighting, scratching and biting will hardly be enough next season, especially since the Corona crisis will probably continue to kill the home advantage. Union coach Urs Fischer will presumably have been considering for some time how to adapt the approach. And Kruse is tailor-made for a cultivated game with the ball.

Hardly anyone moves behind the first forward line with as much style as the elusive difference-maker with the sensitivity in his left foot. If necessary, the ten-man will pick up balls from behind the halfway line, but instinct soon lures him forward, and when attacking moves threaten to fizzle out, he usually has the right solution at the ready – even if the Nutella lover is carrying around a few too many pounds on his ribs.

Productive lateral thinker

He likes the role of the threader, and over the years has become more and more of a specialist for the last and penultimate pass. And he still scores enough goals himself. So far, he has scored 74 goals (and 68 assists) in 250 Bundesliga games. And what is not in the statistics, revealed his last Bundesliga coach Florian Kohfeldt at Werder Bremen: Kruse is the kind of guy who likes to speak up, even to his superiors, about what’s going on. Such lateral thinkers, who still generate performance with friction, have become very, very rare.

Union Berlin has seized the opportunity with the Kruse coup: After his one-year stint at Fenerbahce Istanbul, the 14-time international was on the hunt for a club due to a lack of fees. Kruse is cleverly using the digital world to gain interpretive sovereignty. His rejection of Werder took place this way. "I have said from the beginning that a return to Werder has only a very low probability." The topic had been "hyped up" in public. Expectations would probably have risen immeasurably.

Kruse went off the board as captain at Werder last year – and without him, the team was almost relegated. The offensive all-rounder has also played for FC St. Pauli, SC Freiburg, Borussia Monchengladbach and VfL Wolfsburg, where his then advisor Thomas Strunz reportedly negotiated a salary of 6 million euros for him. Kruse sees no problem in showing off his wealth with ostentatious cars, for example, but sometimes he has overdone it: He once forgot a substantial amount of money in the back seat of a cab during a late-night joyride in Berlin – and soon the common tablecloth with the Werksverein was cut.

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As a way out, his first professional station Bremen came into play again – there he played so strongly from 2016 to 2019 that there was even talk of a return to the national team. But national coach Joachim Low had already suspended Kruse in the spring of 2016. Kruse’s unsound lifestyle and changing partners were not compatible with the code of honor that the DFB team had set for itself.

Kruse’s current choice of job was probably influenced by the fact that established Bundesliga players like Christian Gentner, Anthony Ujah and Neven Subotić have never regretted their move to Berlin-Kopenick. The fact that the capital city offers enough variety away from the soccer field – this aspect certainly also played a role in Max Kruse’s decision.