On a cold winter’s day in the city of Düsseldorf, as patrons of the city sat in the Esprit Arena watching their side go up against former Bundesliga champions VFB Stuttgart, the Fortuna faithful looked on worried, as their side may be staring at a fifth successive game without a win.
The Flingeraner were flirting dangerously close to the relegation places, as the game was drawing to its end. A stalemate looked to be the result. However, a quick brace from their Australian dynamo Robbie Kruse grabbed them all three points late on.
It would be a sign of things to come, and greener pastures that awaited Kruse. But he’s not alone in being a former A-League footballer who has made strides in the German game.
Since the inaugural Hyundai A-League season, there have been more than eight A-League players that have moved to either the Bundesliga or Bundesliga second division. It’s a sign of the A-League talent being recognized in Germany, as the A-League’s only been in existence for eight years. On average, one player has moved from the A-League to pastures new in Germany each year.
Is this a trend or is just a coincidence? Has Germany become a hotbed for A-League talent, akin to what the UK was for players from National Soccer League (NSL, Australia’s initially national league) in the mid-90s to early 00s?
While links to German sides have been apparent since the lofty days of Ned Zelic, Paul Agostino, Frank Juric and others, the mid-90s and early 00s saw many Australian based players venture to British shores such as Mark Viduka, Craig Moore, Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill. And with the success of the A-League, moving abroad has been highlighted evermore by the Australian football media. Germany in particular has seemed to be a ‘smart move’.
Speaking of smart moves, Robbie Kruse’s transfer to Fortuna Dusseldorf when the club were in the Bundesliga second division is one glowing example. In the beginning he was on the outer fringes of the team, but he has seen his development improve during the last Bundesliga campaign, where he moved to Champions League bound Bayer Leverkusen.
German sides have shown patience and belief in Australian based talent in modern times. A key difference in the structures in most German clubs is a Sporting Director. Therefore, unlike a British all-conquering manager approach, transfers and player recruitment is largely dealt with by directors of football.