Brajan Gruda celebrates Mainz's victory and top-flight survival in Wolfsburg. - © IMAGO/CB
Brajan Gruda celebrates Mainz's victory and top-flight survival in Wolfsburg. - © IMAGO/CB

Who is Brajan Gruda, the Mainz attacker asked to help out with Germany's EURO 2024 preparations?


Under-21 international Brajan Gruda has been summoned by Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann to help fill a gap in the nation's UEFA EURO 2024 training-ground preparations. profiles the Mainz attacker who will likely one day warrant a place in the senior side all of his own.

Stats correct as of 24 May 2024

Brajan Gruda

Age: 19 (born 31 May 2004)

Club: Mainz
Position: Attacking midfielder/winger/forward
Country: Germany/Albania (seven Germany U21 caps, one goal)

Key stats

Born in Speyer, on the banks of the river Rhine, Gruda is the son of an Albanian football playing father, Bujar. Gruda senior featured for former Albanian champions Vllaznia - even competing in the UEFA Cup - before moving to Germany. 

Brajan soon showed a similar affinity for football and excelled at local side FC Speyer, before moving to the youth ranks at Karlsruhe. Mainz soon saw something in the raw, attacking talent and moved to place him in their U15 team, where he was quickly winning honours.  

Watch: Gruda's senior debut goal for Mainz was a stunning effort

Following a couple of seasons disrupted by the Covid 19 pandemic, Gruda later presented at Mainz's U19s in 2021/22, and it was from here that the versatile attacker's career really took off. Scoring goals from wide attacking positions as well as from a centre-forward role, the starlet was rewarded with a professional contract at the 05ers and was soon training with the senior pros at the club. 

That natural progression led to the dual German/Albanian national making his Bundesliga debut for Mainz as an 18-year-old against Borussia Dortmund in January 2023. All the while, Gruda continued to excel at the U19s, weighing in with goals as Mainz won junior championship honours. His first senior goal, meanwhile, was a strike for the ages: a left-footed drive from range that left opponents Borussia Mönchengladbach stunned on Matchday 7 of the recently concluded campaign. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a player of such prolific ability and posting the sort of numbers that eventually took Mainz to domestic U19 glory, Gruda enjoyed a role in Germany's international set-up all the way from U15 to Under-21, for whom he has now won seven caps. His talents were also recognised in the form of winning a silver Fritz Walter Medal in 2023, the attacker finishing runner-up to BVB frontman Youssoufa Moukoko.   

Gruda has been rising up the ranks with Germany. - Reinaldo Coddou H.

Most recently, his fabulous form in helping Mainz to stave off relegation following an astounding run under coach Bo Henriksen - Gruda weighing in with seven goal involvements (four goals, three assists) - also led to him gaining senior international recognition. With Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann short on squad options as he began preparations for UEFA EURO 2024, Gruda and Gladbach schemer Rocco Reitz were drafted in to the set-up to help bulk up on the shortfall of numbers caused by players at Bayer Leverkusen, Dortmund and Real Madrid participating in end-of-season finals with their clubs.  

Plays a bit like: Andrés Iniesta 

Of course, the 2010 FIFA World Cup champion with Spain and serial title winner with Barcelona spent the majority of his playing time in midfield. However, the current Emirates Club player displayed plenty of the versatility that Gruda also possesses and the pair are not all that dissimilar in style when operating across the attacking line. Both possess superb close control, technique and balance along with the vision to pick out a long-range pass and ability to take on, and outpace, opponents. And just just like Iniesta, Gruda also boasts a mean shot. 

Did you know?

Gruda came off the worst in a serious training-ground accidental collision with Silvan Widmer in February. The former was taken to hospital and required several stitches while also being instructed to wear a protective face mask. The 19-year-old shook off the incident to feature in Mainz's next game, a 1-0 win against Augsburg. 

"Anyone who saw him yesterday at 4 p.m. would never have imagined that the boy would be playing football today," the 05ers' sporting director Christian Heidel said after the victory. "He had his whole face torn apart; he had stitches in the plastic surgery (department) and I assumed he wouldn’t play football for the next ten weeks." 

Mainz boss Bo Henriksen (l.) has been seriously impressed with Gruda. - Neil Baynes

What they're saying

"We’d like to give these two young prospects a chance to show what they can do in the senior side so that the squad can train optimally in the early stages of preparation." - Germany coach Nagelsmann on drafting Gruda and Reitz in to help out with EURO 2024 preparations. 

"Brajan is 19 years old, suffered a really serious injury, had a lot of stitches, and then he says he still wants to play. That makes a difference to other players when he shows so much courage and goes onto the field with so much power. And then after ten minutes he takes off the (protective) mask! It's unbelievable." - Mainz coach Bo Henriksen speaking after Gruda's rapid return from a training-ground facial injury.  

"He has shown everything we need in this club. We have to be brave and stand together. It’s great when 19-year-old kids make such a mark." - More Henriksen praise for Gruda.