Bad Ragaz - VfL Wolfsburg sporting director Klaus Allofs has known his club's latest summer recruit, Max Kruse from Borussia Mönchengladbach, for a long time. The pair's relationship dates back to 2006, when Allofs was the driving force behind a deal to bring the fresh-faced 18-year-old to SV Werder Bremen.
'You can hardly do much better'
Fast forward to 2015, however, and the expectations placed on the striker are significantly higher than nine years ago. "We want Max to keep doing what he did at Gladbach," explained Allofs to kicker in the alpine surroundings of Wolfsburg's Swiss training camp. "In fact, we want him to take his game to the next level. That will be necessary here as there's a lot of competition, particularly up front."
You could say Kruse has brought the high expectations on himself. Unlike nine years ago, he is now an established German international, one unfortunate to miss out on the FIFA World Cup 2014, while his performances for the Foals since joining in 2013 were nothing short of inspirational, with the side finishing only a place behind his new employers in 2014/15.
Indeed, while 11 goals and nine assists last campaign mark an impressive return, the 27-year-old knows that he cannot rely on his reputation alone at the Volkswagen Arena. "Wolfsburg were runners-up and won the DFB Cup," he told Sport Bild. "You can hardly do much better than that in football."
'Still some potential in there'
With his prior knowledge of Kruse's talent, Allofs trusts that the striker is the man to help the side do just that: improve. "We're getting a good professional, a good player and a relaxed man," explained the 58-year-old. "I've known Max for a while and I know there's still some potential in there. He brings a lot to the table which will help us in the new season."
Kruse will get an immediate opportunity to demonstrate his abilities to his new coach, Dieter Hecking, and his new team-mates, including fellow strikers Bas Dost and Nicklas Bendtner, on Thursday when he takes part in first-team training for the first time.
'Hit the ground running'
Dutch international Dost flew into Bad Ragaz on Monday while Bendtner rejoined his colleagues on Wednesday. Like Kruse, both players will be eyeing the lone striker role in Hecking’s favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, which is likely to be employed in the Supercup against FC Bayern München on 1 August.
Ostensibly, the Dutchman has the strongest claim to the shirt, having netted 16 goals last campaign. "As soon as you start training again, that hunger comes straight back," explained Dost to the club’s official website. "I just hope I don't pick up any injuries this season, that's the most important thing."
It will certainly be important to stay fit given that Kruse's arrival establishes a three-way battle for the striker's role. It is a battle which Kruse himself, however, is relishing. "I want to show the coach from the word 'go' that I'm an alternative for him up front," he explained. "I know that Wolfsburg are already a very good team who enjoyed a lot of success last season, but that means I just have to hit the ground running. I'm intending to do just that."