Niclas Füllkrug: Werder Bremen goal-king taking Germany chatter in his stride


He's the talk of the Bundesliga and even has plenty of high-profile tongues wagging about FIFA World Cup possibilities, but for the formidable Niclas Füllkrug - Werder Bremen's free-scoring forward - the focus is fully on living in the moment.

Those who previously boasted numbers the 29-year-old is currently posting in Germany's top flight are legends of the game. With eight goals in his opening nine appearances, Füllkrug - currently the Bundesliga's top scorer - is rubbing shoulders with the likes of Rudi Völler and Miroslav Klose, footballing behemoths and ex-Bremen heroes both. So far this season, Werder's No.11 has scored against Wolfsburg, Stuttgart, Eintracht Frankfurt and Hoffenheim, while registering doubles at Bochum and at home to Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Indeed, only Erling Haaland, Robert Lewandowski, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe have scored more goals this season among players based in Europe’s top five leagues. So it really is no surprise 'Fülle' is filling plenty of press columns relating to a possible call-up to Hansi Flick's Germany for the forthcoming FIFA World Cup.

Watch: Füllkrug and Bremen toy with Gladbach

Flick took in Füllkrug's player of the match performance against Hoffenheim - where the man in question set up one and scored the other to clinch a 2-1 win in Sinsheim - for himself, and gave the clearest indication yet that Werder's talisman is in the running for a winter trip to Qatar.

"What he does has a lot of merit," said Flick. " He's having a very good run now and I think he's doing really well and may bring an element to our team that we don't have in our current form. We see a few players in this position in the Bundesliga who could possibly strengthen us in the 26-man squad... He's a candidate."

Füllkrug, however, is keeping his feet on the ground. For now, at least. "That’s for others to judge," the 29-year-old said when asked whether he fancied his chances of making the squad for the World Cup. "I think I'm doing very well at the moment, but it’s a team game. A lot of things are working out for me right now, and I'm happy about that because I’ve been working hard for it."

It's hard work that is spilling over into the current campaign. The Werder striker registered 19 goals and laid on eight assists last term as he - along with strike partner Marvin Ducksch - helped Werder achieve promotion back to the Bundesliga at the first time of asking. The duo have given themselves the moniker of the 'Ugly Ducklings', but there is something seriously eye-catching about the success that is being generated along the banks of the River Weser with Ducksch and top marksman Füllkrug in full flow.

Füllkrug and Ducksch have picked up where they left off during last season's successful promotion push. - IMAGO / Kirchner-Media

"Hard work is rewarded and Füllkrug works hard," Ducksch said of his teammate. "We saw that already last year, and the same thing is happening now. He's in a very good shape physically, he’s healthy. His body is holding up well, and right now you can see the quality he has to offer," Ducksch continued.

The 6'2" Füllkrug is savouring the moment. A product of the Werder youth team, he has had to contend with a litany of knee problems during a career which also took in spells at Greuther Fürth, Nuremberg and Hannover. It was at the latter where the striker enjoyed his best Bundesliga campaign to date in terms of personal numbers, Füllkrug netting 14 times for Die Roten in 2017/18. He appears well on his way to trumping that total this term, with his supreme confidence particularly on show in Werder's 5-1 drubbing of Gladbach on Matchday 8. On what was his 100th game for the Green-Whites, the striker weighed in with two goals and an assist.

"He's positively obsessed, sometimes on the edge, but he always just absolutely wants to win games," Bremen coach Ole Werner told the club website. "He's putting in some great shifts at the moment and he's a very complete player."

A powerhouse of a forward who can hold up possession, run with the ball and who can score thundering goals with his head or apply jaw-dropping finishes from almost every angle, Füllkrug is being talked of as the striking option Germany currently lack going into November and December's international footballing showpiece. "If he carries on like this, you can’t avoid the conversation about taking him to the World Cup," Ducksch insisted.

Werder's Niklas Stark concurred about the player who has previously represented his country at U18, U19 and U20 level. "The Germany national team has got some really good technical players, but in terms of a pure number nine, you can't look past Fülle, he's in very good shape," the defender explained.

Similar calls are coming from outside the River Islanders too. "You can see not only the power and the goal threat, but also his understanding of the game. He's definitely one of the candidates who deserve [a call-up]," World Cup winning Germany legend Lothar Matthäus said of the in-form Werder forward. The 2014 world champion Bastian Schweinsteiger was equally enthusiastic when asked about Füllkrug's Qatar hopes: "He's a very, very interesting player. He plays with experience, scores goals and prepares well; he's fast and has an athletic body."

For the player himself, the chatter is failing to distract him from the task at hand, which is to help his club in the best way he knows how: by scoring goals. "Of course I'm very happy when people like Lothar Matthäus or others who know football well praise my game and say I'm doing well," Füllkrug said. "But everything else is out of my hands. I'm trying to do what I'm doing right now. There's nothing for it but to keep working."