Bad Ragaz - Having watched him represent SV Werder Bremen with such distinction for 13 years, it may take some time before fans of die Grün-Weißen get used to the sight of Aaron Hunt in a VfL Wolfsburg shirt.
Finding his feet
Hunt, who was awarded a Fair Play Medal by the German Olympic Society (DOG) last season after denying his own team a penalty in a match against 1. FC Nürnberg, signed a three-year contract with the Wolves in May having previously joined Werder as a 14-year-old in 2001. “I’ve worn green and white all my life,” Hunt told reporters on Wolfsburg’s return to pre-season training at the beginning of July. “These colours are nothing new for me, but this club definitely is.”
Wolfsburg are currently preparing for the new campaign in the picturesque village of Bad Ragaz at the foot of the Swiss Alps, and having spent the last two weeks working at close quarters with his new team-mates, Hunt is already beginning to feel at home in the Wolves’ den. “We’re still working on our match fitness, but there’s plenty of room for improvement,” he told bundesliga.com. “It might take another couple of weeks [for us to reach full fitness].”
Hunt will be hoping to become better acquainted with his new colleagues during that time. The presence of former Bremen stars Naldo and Kevin de Bruyne, meanwhile, is certain to help the 27-year-old adapt to his new surroundings. “I know one or two [from my time at Bremen],” he said. “So far, the team has made things very easy for me and I’ve felt comfortable right from the word go.”
Hitting the ground running
His performances in pre-season suggest as much: playing in behind loan striker Ivica Olic, Hunt has provided the creative spark for Dieter Hecking’s side during their recent warm-up matches, his team-mates often seeking him out in dangerous areas. Having been a leading figure at the Weser Stadion for so many years, Hunt now appears well on the way to achieving similar status in Lower Saxony.
Aside from former Eintracht Frankfurt defender Sebastian Jung, Hunt has so far been the only addition to the Wolfsburg squad this summer, but VfL sporting director Klaus Allofs, who knows Hunt well from his own time at Bremen, has been delighted with the pair’s impact during pre-season. “In Jung and Hunt, we’ve signed two players who have, even in such a short space of time, improved the overall quality of the squad,” the 57-year-old told bundesliga.com.
Indeed, of all central midfielders currently plying their trade in Germany’s top flight, only Frankfurt’s Alexander Meier (56) has scored more goals than Hunt, who has notched 46 in 215 Bundesliga outings. Last term, he set up nine league goals in a Bremen shirt - more than any Wolfsburg midfielder in 2013/14.
The likes of Maximilian Arnold, De Bruyne and are likely to shoulder the creative burden at the Volkswagen Arena this season, but with so many offensive players vying for a starting berth, Hunt knows his place on the team sheet is far from guaranteed. “We have many good attacking players in particular,” he admitted. “But I think everyone can benefit from the competition - that’s one of the reasons why I came here.”
In De Bruyne’s absence following his 2014 World Cup exploits, Hecking has plumped for Arnold, Hunt and Perisic in attacking midfield in recent friendlies, but competition for places is certain to further increase once the Belgium international returns to the first-team fold. “I want to play as often as possible,” Hunt admitted. “I’ll keep doing my best in training, but the decision ultimately rests with the coach.”
Maximilian Lotz reporting from Bad Ragaz
Check out Aaron Hunt's headline-grabbing act of fair play on the Bundesliga's official YouTube channel: