Cologne - Over 18 months ago, Christoph Kramer lined up a shot with his left foot and found the back of the net. It was the goal that saw VfL Bochum end the season with a 2-1 defeat at home to 1. FC Union Berlin in Bundesliga 2 - his last appearance for the Westphalian club and his last at that level.
Back to his roots, via Gladbach
The talented midfielder had done enough even prior to that goal to earn a shot at the Bundesliga, although perhaps on that May afternoon it was hard to imagine that just over a year later, he would be putting the cherry on top of a remarkable rise by as Germany won the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
He did so wearing the colours of Borussia Mönchengladbach, his second address on loan from Bayer 04 Leverkusen, who first spotted the talents of the Solingen-born midfielder and ensured other clubs could only look and not touch. The 23-year-old will be returning to Leverkusen next summer having penned a new deal with the club he joined in 2008, having already soldered a solid reputation on his travels.
His first season with Gladbach was the kind of which dreams are made. A sum of 33 Bundesliga appearances made him an almost ever-present in Lucien Favre's side, unsurprising given his consistently reliable displays. He also caught the eye of Germany coach Joachim Löw, who despite calling him up for the first time only a month prior to the trip to Brazil, soon realised that he had to be given a fixed place in his squad too.
No mind games
He may not remember all that much about the crowning moment of his international career, with concussion ruling him out of the final win over Argentina after a handful of minutes, but that blow to the head has left no lasting impression. In fact, he has emerged even stronger, both as a player and as a personality.
If Kramer has a job to do, he does it. If he has something to say, he will say it too. "There are certainly people who will criticise me and say I'm big-headed, but for me I'm still exactly the same guy I was a year ago," Kramer said after returning from Brazil. "It's just people's opinions which change after we won the World Cup."
Those opinions most certainly have changed with the versatile defensive midfielder now widely regarded as one of the best in his role. "He's had a fantastic year and he's had his given his all right the way through it," said Favre. "He's always worked hard for the team and I can only say positive things about him."
Finding something negative would be like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack, yet his sensational 44.5-metre own goal against Borussia Dortmund will not take such a predominant place in his scrapbook, even if it is not forgotten. "I really played a pathetic match today," Kramer said, refusing as always to bite his tongue as he instead delivered an honest assessment when most others would have shied away from a post-match interview.
Kramer has nothing to hide from, even after that costly mistake. He knows where he has come from and where he is going, and he will not forget the moments that have defined him. "I became a German international with Gladbach and I'm very grateful for the wonderful time I had here," he said. "Everybody in Gladbach can count on me giving everything in this last half a year to ensure the club qualify for Europe next season." Who would even consider doubting him?