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Dortmund loanee Knauff becoming Frankfurt’s Europa League star

Berlin (AFP) – Ansgar Knauff only joined Eintracht Frankfurt on loan in January, but his goals against Barcelona and West Ham have helped put Eintracht Frankfurt on the verge of the Europa League final.

Frankfurt need only a draw at home to West Ham in Thursday’s semi-final second leg to reach their first European final in 42 years.

Knauff joined on an 18-month loan from Borussia Dortmund in January, shortly after his 20th birthday, and has already scored two key goals in Europe.

He needed just 51 seconds to head the visitors into the lead at West Ham as the Germans claimed a 2-1 win in last week’s first leg.

That followed his brilliant strike at home to Barcelona in the quarters, as the first leg ended in a 1-1 draw before 30,000 Frankfurt fans managed to get tickets for Camp Nou to cheer the Germans to a historic 3-2 win in the return leg.

“Since he has been here, he has made a huge step forward and is on a good path,” Frankfurt coach Oliver Glasner said of Knauff.

The midfielder started Monday’s 2-0 defeat at Bayer Leverkusen on the bench, one of eight changes to the Eintracht team which won at West Ham.

The Germany Under-21 forward could be a surprise inclusion for the senior national squad when the World Cup kicks off in November.

Spotted by Jurgen Klopp as a 12-year-old in 2014, Knauff joined Dortmund’s academy in 2016.

He made his senior debut in a Champions League game at Zenit St Petersburg in December 2020.

A lack of opportunities limited him to 16 first-team appearances until he was loaned to Frankfurt.

Before his arrival, Eintracht had struggled on the right side of midfield and he quickly earned a starting spot.

The only regret Eintracht have about Knauff’s loan deal is that there is no option to buy him.

“He’s getting better and better. He’s understanding more and more what we want here,” added Glasner.

“As a result, his abilities and qualities are really starting to come to the fore. He’s heading in the right direction.”

Knauff and his Frankfurt team-mates are bidding to reach the club’s first European final since 1980 when Eintracht beat Borussia Moenchengladbach on away goals over two legs to win the UEFA Cup.

Eintracht’s Europa League run is the talk of the town in Frankfurt.

“The Europa League enjoys an extremely high status in Frankfurt. No matter where you go: There is almost no other topic,” admitted Glasner.

But Frankfurt could be hosting even higher-level football next season, as a victory in the final would see them qualify for the Champions League for the first time since losing the 1960 European Cup final to Real Madrid.

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