Be skeptical when a biography appears about a footballer who is still active. Even more so if this player has not won anything worth mentioning so far. No world championship, no European championship, not even a championship. But who cares, the stories that Max Kruse, who is currently playing for VfL Wolfsburg, has already written are always more exciting than those of all German star footballers.
And anyway, the main story is that Kruse could have been a big kicker – if he had wanted a little bit more.
The biography was written by the journalist David Joram. The 32-year-old traced Kruse’s career path in detail and spoke to all conceivable companions, his father Frank, a number of fellow players, his advisors, even a poker pro. Because that is also the story of Max Kruse, that of the player next to the pitch. Kruse loves poker, likes to travel to the big, expensive tables in Las Vegas – and often wins.
Almost more than as a footballer, he attracted attention in this country when he left a backpack with 75,000 euros in cash in a taxi in Berlin in 2015. The money, some winnings from the casino, never showed up again. Kruse finally stuck to the image of the scandal professional. Kruse had previously failed the German Football Association headed by the then national coach Joachim Löw.
On the one hand, Kruse had not gone through the usual grids that the DFB provides for its elite kickers. For a long time he played for the amateur club SC Vier- und Marschlande near Hamburg, only at the age of 18 he switched to a professional club, SV Werder Bremen.
In addition, Kruse did not meet all the DFB requirements in terms of football. Athletics and tactical discipline are the top priorities here. But Kruse, known to his fellow players as “Nutella-Kruse” because of his fondness for chocolate cream, usually had a few kilograms too much on his ribs.
What makes the biography worth reading is that it doesn’t focus too much on the sloppy genius narrative. It becomes clear that Kruse didn’t get anything for free either, he had to sacrifice a lot for his goal of becoming a professional footballer. The 34-year-old still doesn’t drink a sip of alcohol. His father Frank had drummed it into him early on that nothing can be achieved without diligence.
But it is just as clear that Kruse’s international career should not have ended after just 14 games. Kruse was (and is) the difference player that is often cited in technical jargon, one who can break out of the tight tactical corset on the pitch. Because – as reported by teammates and coaches – he is equipped with outstanding game intelligence and recognizes situations faster than others.
Arnd Zeigler, journalist and stadium announcer at SV Werder, revels in Joram’s “Zocker” in fond memories of the former star footballer from Bremen: “If you’re a football romantic, you have to like him. When he had the ball, you knew: Anything can happen now.”