Max Kruse has joined Paderborn ahead of the 2023/24 Bundesliga 2 season. - © Oliver Hardt/Bundesliga/DFL via Getty Images
Max Kruse has joined Paderborn ahead of the 2023/24 Bundesliga 2 season. - © Oliver Hardt/Bundesliga/DFL via Getty Images

Max Kruse: 5 things on Paderborn's new poker-faced striker


He’s played in the Poker World Series in Las Vegas, sung on The Voice, founded his own racing team and knows a thing or two about scoring goals: it’s safe to say Paderborn have signed a forward born for the fast lane in Max Kruse. trains the spotlight on the former Germany international…

1) He knows where the goal is

As varied as his off-field interests might be – and more on those later - Kruse is, first and foremost, an excellent striker. The 35-year-old may not be the tallest of players at 5’11”, but his clever movement and vicious left boot can cause problems for even the stingiest of backlines.

Freiburg, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Werder Bremen and Union Berlin have all reaped the benefits thereof since he made his professional breakthrough at Bundesliga 2 side St. Pauli, with 117 goals in 370 appearances across Germany's top two divisions prior to returning to Paderborn in June 2023.

Watch: Kruse's top 5 Bundesliga goals

And when he is good, he is, well, very very good. On Matchday 30 of the 2016/17 season he scored four times in Bremen’s 4-2 win over Ingolstadt, including a hat-trick in the final 10 minutes. He finished that campaign with a personal-best 15, and only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Robert Lewandowski, Timo Werner and Anthony Modeste had better minutes-per-goal ratios that term. That quartet all played in at least 31 games, whereas injuries limited Kruse to just 23…

He also grabbed a hat-trick and an assist in a 4-0 triumph over Hannover on Matchday 12 in 2017/18, while an incredible run of six goals and three assists in just four matches in March 2019 earned him – quite rightly – the Bundesliga Player of the Month award.

His skills did not go unnoticed by Germany coach Joachim Löw, who handed him the first of 14 international caps in a 4-2 friendly win over Ecuador on 29 May 2013. Kruse scored his maiden goal for Die Mannschaft in his next game, a 4-3 defeat to the US in Washington DC, and found the net four times overall for Germany.

Watch: The best of Kruse in the Bundesliga

2) He sang on ‘The Voice’ in Turkey

Kruse left Bremen at the end of the 2018/19 season to join Fenerbahce. If it came as a surprise that he bade farewell to his boyhood team, that was nothing compared to the sight of him taking to the stage on New Year’s Eve 2019 in the Turkish version of the musical talent show ‘The Voice’.

Sporting bleached blonde hair and wearing a dapper suit and bowtie, Kruse sang the Dean Martin crooner classic “Sway”. His vocals in what he later admitted was his first time singing in public evidently, ahem, swayed the judges, with three of the four turning their chairs around in a sign of approval.

3) He has his own racing team

Football may be Kruse’s first love, but he is also a self-confessed motorhead - to the extent that he set up the ‘Max Kruse Racing' team in January 2018. Although he doesn’t drive in any races himself, he oversees everyday operations alongside his father Frank.

“I inherited my passion for driving fast from my dad and I’ve always wanted to take part in legal races on race tracks,” Kruse explained. “Although I haven’t been able to do so yet due to my job, motorsport still runs through my veins. Being able to set up my own racing team is a dream come true that I want to keep alive for as long as possible.”

Benjamin Leuchter is the man behind the wheel in the team’s Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR in the ADAC TCR Germany racing series, and in addition to competitive racing the company also offers special driver training courses for anyone looking to learn how to drive fast safely.

Kruse (r.) with Benjamin Leuchter (l.) officially unveil the Kruse Racing Team car in 2018. - Kokenge/Nordphoto/IMAGO Images

4) Poker expert

Football, racing, singing… and poker. Kruse is a huge fan of the card game and has admitted previously that he could envisage taking it up full-time when he retires from football. In June 2014 he came third out of 241 players at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, while the following year he ended up 26th out of 387.

In 2017 he reached the final of the $1,500 Limit 2-7 Lowball Triple Draw, and led for a long period. Eventually, though, he came fourth, but still took home a cool $28,740 in prize money after a buy-in of $1,500.

5) Penalty specialist

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a man who thrives on the thrill of the high-stakes moment, Kruse has only ever missed one penalty in the Bundesliga.

He had the chance to equal the best-mark of 17 consecutive converted spot-kicks held jointly by Robert Lewandowski and former goalkeeper Hans-Jörg Butt, but missed against Cologne in November 2020.

Nevertheless, he has scored 24 times from the spot overall in the Bundesliga, and 34 out of 35 in all competitions.