For once, Robert Lewandowski is not leading the Bundesliga goalscoring charts. That honour goes to Andrej Kramaric, who has bagged five goals from Hoffenheim's first two game this season.
bundesliga.com sat down with the Croatian FIFA World Cup finalist for an exclusive interview…
bundesliga.com: You've scored 10 goals in your last four Bundesliga matches, dating back to the end of last season, would you say this is the best Andrej Kramaric ever?
Andrej Kramaric: "It's hard to say of course, but I'm happy because of these goals and wins, but it's very hard to say that it's the best Andrej ever. I have to say I'm happy that I played very well the last four-and-a-half seasons in Hoffenheim, so let's say it's too early to compare it. Of course, I'll be happy if it continues like this, if I score more, if I assist more and if Hoffenheim wins more games, and then maybe at the end of the season we can talk about this."
bundesliga.com: Is there any reason behind you hitting this form right now? You've been fit consistently over the last few months...
Kramaric: "Well, it's no special secret there. I'm fit, finally, I'm healthy. Of course, last season I had some problems and issues. This season, right now I feel good. I'm ready. I'm motivated and I want to reach more, I want to be better on the pitch. There's no big secret."
bundesliga.com: How would you describe your style of play in the Hoffenheim team, what is your role?
Kramaric: "Well, first maybe that's a question for other guys, not for me. But everybody knows that I'm not just a classic striker, I get used to maybe playing in midfield, like a No.10, attacking midfielder, with a natural feeling for goals. Of course, I'm trying to move, to run more, to find free spaces, to play a little bit more clever, to be in the box, and of course to score more goals. Maybe this is the shortest way I could say, but maybe the best question is for other guys."
bundesliga.com: As you said you're not a classic striker, but you're scoring goals like a natural No.9. How do you think you're managing to score so much despite not being a classic striker?
Kramaric: "I think I'm moving right, in the right timing, with a good feeling for a ball or wherever the ball can come. So it's just a feeling. I don't think you can learn it, you cannot teach somebody, it's just a feeling from your body and your head."
Watch: Kramaric, Hoffenheim's record goalscorer
bundesliga.com: Does it help to have those instincts for scoring goals?
Kramaric: "I would say it's kind of freestyle in the box, of course, some things can change if you play in a better team, or a better system, with better players. But in the end, you have to use your head and often you can see, some guys are saying 'you have to use your mind more than the legs'."
bundesliga.com: Would you say that over-thinking those scoring opportunities can cause problems, instead of relying on your instincts?
Kramaric: "Yeah, that's true, I had the same, maybe in the beginning when I came to the Bundesliga. I was a little bit younger, I was thinking too much about the chances. Right now, when I'm a little bit more experienced, I feel better, I'm calmer, and maybe there's a reason why I'm playing great football right now. Also of course, with scoring goals, you have to practise in training - this you can practice! But this feeling and something else, you have to be born like this."
bundesliga.com: You've scored goals in many special ways, but perhaps the most memorable in the Bundesliga so far was your no-look penalty against Borussia Dortmund on the final day of last season?
Kramaric: "It was a special moment because obviously, we needed to win in Dortmund, of course, a hard game against I would say the second-best opponent in the Bundesliga. Only a win was enough for us to get into the Europa League, and we got a great result. I have to say, I thought before the game that if it happened I would try to shoot a no-look penalty because nobody in the world in history tried to shoot a penalty like this, so I was thinking it could be cool, could be something new without so much pressure. And I did it, and luckily I had the luck to score it."
bundesliga.com: What do you think about Hoffenheim's chances in the Bundesliga and other competitions this season?
Kramaric: "Of course, it's very early to say what we can reach. Of course, every season, it's our goal to reach European games. We'll be very happy with Champions League, but there's a lot of games left, we're going to need to train more to improve more and to at least try to play like this game against Bayern, because for sure the other teams watched the game and they'll be more motivated against us. That means it's going to be much harder games. We have to stay on the Earth, with the legs and the mind, and then anything is possible. I'd be happy with Champions League how I said, but in the end, I think with European games, everything is going to be fine."
bundesliga.com: After beating Bayern Munich last time out, you're now coming up against Eintracht Frankfurt this weekend. What are your thoughts on facing die Adler?
Kramaric: "I expect a very hard match, like always, to be honest. We don't need to analyse Frankfurt so much because the last 10 games I would say it was always similar types of games. I respect Frankfurt a lot, and I really want to win against them, because I can say in the last few years we didn't have so good a rate against them. So, I'm ready, I hope that I'll be fit, that everything is going to be ready, so we can also beat Frankfurt in Frankfurt"
bundesliga.com: You spoke to us after the Bayern win and said that the team has to improve. Why did you feel the need to say that after such a big victory for the team?
Kramaric: "Yeah, I was just honest. I wanted to tell the truth. Of course, you have some moments like this, you win the game but you played a bad game. I was feeling 'Ok I have to say it', just to be aware that it wasn't so good, that it has to be much, much better. In the end, my words were just honest words and I think, nice game against Bayern, it helped us. To be honest, I will always be honest to myself, to my coach, to my teammates, to everyone. I think it's the best communication. Sometimes you have to use harder words at first, but in the end, it's the best way for all of us."
Watch: Highlights of Hoffenheim's 4-1 win over Bayern
bundesliga.com: You've played 48 times for your country of birth, Croatia. Are you proud to be Croatian, and what do you think about your home country?
Kramaric: "I have to say, for me, Croatia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I visited a lot of countries, but I have to say, Croatia is amazing. You can see a lot of things, we have a lot of islands, beautiful sea, a lot of nice beaches, amazing food. So for me, it's not because I'm Croatian, I'm just honest. I think Croatia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I'm very proud of the style of life, nature, beauty, and I would never change my home country!"
bundesliga.com: We hear you have a big love for animals?
Kramaric: "I love animals, actually as my girlfriend is a vet, I love it. To be honest, when I was a kid, my favourite animal was a cheetah, because it’s the fastest animal in the world, yeah."
bundesliga.com: Did you always dream of being a professional footballer?
Kramaric: "Of course, when I was a kid, I was dreaming a lot. When I was a kid, my dream was to become the best player in the world, to play in the best club in the world, so I have to say, let's say I’ve done it because I really appreciate everything. I'm grateful that I'm here, I play professional football, I can live from it, I can also take care of my family and that is my love. Football is everything for me, I really enjoy it, and I hope I'm going to play a lot more years."
bundesliga.com: What do you think you would be if you weren't a footballer?
Kramaric: "Yeah, a very hard question to be honest! I can't give you the answer right now because yeah when I was a kid, football was the only thing on my mind, I was only focused on that. So we'll see, after my football career, how it's going to work, what I'm going to be, but right now it's really hard to say what I would be if I didn't become a football player."
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