Füllkrug is a late bloomer, but Germany’s top scorer is just getting started

BREMEN, Germany. Niklas Fülkrug admits that his obsession with football continues to grow.

“Over the last year and a half, during which I got into a flow where everything went very well for me and the team, I became very obsessed with football, and currently even a little more,” he said. reports Sportzshala. In the past 18 months, Fülkrug has risen to the top by becoming Werder Bremen’s most feared goalscorer, first in the 2nd Bundesliga and now in the Bundesliga.

In a time when clean hitters are rare and teams favor a smoother attack, the 6-foot-2 free-kick specialist is all but the exception. As such, German head coach Hansi Flick chose Fülkrug to play in the World Cup, where he played 66 minutes in three group stage games, scoring two goals. Despite the fact that the German national team was relegated early, Fülkrug took another step in his career, which suffered many setbacks.

However, if you ask him, from now on there is only one direction for him: up.

“I believe that the past years have shown that my best years in my position are yet to come. the best years are yet to come,” says Fülkrug.

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How does he intend to keep improving? First, Fülkrug believes that being smart and experienced are the most important qualities for a striker in today’s game.

“It’s a position where you get smarter in every situation you face in a box where you learn and feel better about the next situation,” he says. “It is extremely important that your finishing skills and feel for your teammates to know your teammates well, to know [when to go] for near stance, far stance, short run, deep run. And this is what is reflected in my game: from game to game I get into better situations, and my age helps me more than hinders. Therefore, I firmly believe that things are about to begin.”

While talking to Fülkrug, who likes to show off his big biceps, a comparison is made between strikers and heavyweight boxers who often reach their peak later than their more agile peers. “There are different schools of thought,” he says. “To think about [Mike] Tyson, who had incredible dynamism in his 20s. There are also forwards who are incredibly dynamic in their 20s. But when you have experience and improve your attitude towards yourself, then this is much more valuable than being [a little bit] Faster.”

Although he has never been the fastest, Füllkrug’s body has improved a lot over time, which is part of the equation that has brought him success.

“The physical element took on a different shape due to my last injury,” he explains. “I have reached a different weight class and train in a completely different way. This gives me more opportunities to break through. [defences] during the game, and I learned what my body is capable of.

Fülkrug joined Werder Bremen’s youth program in 2006 and rose through the ranks until he made his senior Bundesliga debut in 2012. Although Werder Bremen saw promising results in the young striker, the club initially loaned him to a second division team. Greuther Furth and then transfer him to the 1st FC Nuremberg in 2014.

It seemed his dream of becoming a Bremen frontman was over, but Fülkrug struggled with doubt and setbacks, missing 110 first-team matches in his career due to injuries. He struggled until he was brought back by Werder Bremen via transfer from Hannover 96 for a fee of €6.5 million in 2019. It took him 10 years to climb to the top of the mountain where he is now, the Bundesliga’s top scorer with 14 goals after 23 rounds.

In light of his long and arduous journey to the top, does he consider himself a late bloomer?

“Because of the path I’ve had to take in my career, I think I should say yes. I’ve been thrown back more than once at stages where it felt like I had just started,” he says. “Now I am on a trajectory that reflects what I have seen in myself for a long time. I have to admit, I’m a little proud to be able to show this to the world. However, a team is always needed.

While the Fühlkrug has finally achieved its breakthrough, Werder Bremen has bounced back from its own major setback: relegation to the 2nd Bundesliga in 2021. The four-time German champions only spent one year in the second division before returning to the top. flight, but the past few years (including the coronavirus pandemic) have taken a toll on the club economically. The financial resources of head coach Ole Werner and sporting director Frank Baumann are limited, but these difficulties have helped add to the joy the club has in creating such a powerful pair of strikers in Fülkrug and Marvin Daksch.

The latter had to endure his own early career setback: Dortmund-born Daksh failed to break into Borussia Dortmund after graduating from the club’s academy in the 2012-13 season. He has established himself in the 2nd Bundesliga as a versatile striker who, despite his large build, is technically savvy and boasts playing skills. When the Werder club channel asked what nickname the pair might have, Fühlkrug coined the term “ugly birds”. He’s stuck.

It showed a different side of Füllkrug, who can be exceptionally focused on making the most of the next few years of his career, but doesn’t take himself too seriously. The visible gap between his two upper teeth earned him the predictable nickname: “The Gap”. Fühlkrug has considered implantation, but for now he retains the look football fans in Germany are accustomed to, and his wife Lisa has already seen him when they were in elementary school together.

The 30-year-old doesn’t fit into the stereotypes of professional footballers who care about their looks and Instagram following. Fülkrug doesn’t want to waste time on something that won’t make him a better player and help him score his 15th goal of the season, which he says is his next personal goal.

“For now, we need to get back into our flow so we can steer a lot of games in our direction,” he says. “That doesn’t mean that a promoted team like Werder Bremen has to win them all, but we want to make things more difficult. [for our opponents] and score a lot of points. For now, it’s about avoiding relegation.”

Werder Bremen have won three games and lost five since the season restarted in January, which puts them in 11th place in the standings, 11 points above the relegation zone. As for, they have lost three of their last four and only scored once in that time. Werder Bremen will face Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday. (12:30 pm ET, live on Sportzshala+)very likely, with a well-prepared Fülkrug in the starting XI looking to end their goalless spell that began at the end of January.

“The desire to keep experiencing it, to get better, to develop further, drives me,” he says. “I think a lot about my game, about our game, and analyze a lot even when I’m at home.”

Will he ever be able to turn off the football in his head?

“Well, my biggest hobby besides football is my family, my wife and my daughter. I spend a lot of time with them and everything that comes with it: dough kneading, games, playgrounds,” says Fülkrug. “So now there is nothing but football and family. And that’s great. I enjoy this time and love my life the way it is.”

Having overcome numerous obstacles and achieved success, Füllkrug will not stop there. He is happy but restless because he thinks he is just getting started.


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