Großkreutz can be the difference at Wembley
Last weekend was a supposed preview of the Champions League final when Borussia Dortmund hosted the new Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich. The match ended, perhaps predictably, on level terms. A missed penalty by Lewandowski, and Dortmund’s failure to capitalize on Rafinha’s 65th minute sending off, could have tilted the result deservedly in the host’s favour. That said, both sides will be relatively pleased to come away with a point and no fresh injury concerns before the more meaningful clash on May 25th. And for Jurgen Klopp’s side, we may have caught a glimpse at one of the potential stars of that upcoming fixture: Kevin Großkreutz.
The German winger was in the starting lineup on Saturday and needed only 11 minutes to make his mark. A Błaszczykowski cross was met on the volley perfectly by Großkreutz to send the majority of the capacity Signal Iduna Park crowd into raptures. It was only his 2nd goal of the season on his 17th league start – a career low for the 24-year old. A strong performance throughout the remainder of the match earned him his first man of the match award of the season and seriously underlined the impact he can have in big matches.
As a Dortmund native and lifelong supporter of the club, this month’s final against league rivals Bayern Munich will literally be the biggest possible match Großkreutz could hope to be involved in. For that reason his manager must consider including him in the starting XI – the desire and commitment required to have a chance of winning the trophy will be delivered from dedicated players such as Kevin. He would literally run until his legs gave way if given the chance to play in just over a fortnight.
Players of similar mold have been valued by top teams in the past. Park Ji-Sung was played in a lot of big games by Sir Alex Ferguson for Manchester United due to his great work ethic, and defensive value as well as going forward. Ivica Olic was often used as the toiling forward for Bayern Munich to compensate for ‘lazy’ strikers like Klose and Gomez. Dirk Kuyt was perhaps the best example – his defensive awareness and boundless energy for Liverpool and the Netherlands made him invaluable to both sides, keeping him ahead of arguably more gifted players on the ball.
The fact that Großkreutz is a top-notch talent also makes the prospect of playing him in the final even more appealing. His goal on Saturday was a wonderful display of technical ability that could only be executed by a a player of real quality. Though lack of consistency has often blighted the German international’s short career so far, the moments of magic are proof that he can perform with the best. A stage like the Wembley Arena, with the whole world watching, could inspire great things for Die Borussen’s number 19. And if not, his effort will undoubtedly be hard to better on either side of the field.
Another advantage of playing Großkreutz is his versatility. Predominantly a winger, he is capable of playing in a number of positions – central midfield, full-back, even as a forward. His flexibility, stature and style of play are similar to their Bavarian counterparts’ Thomas Müller. The only thing separating the two is Müller’s consistency and, a little unfairly, that he was lucky enough to develop with a more elite club in Bayern Munich.
This final is not only a chance to topple their Klassiker rivals, but also for players like Großkreutz, on a personal level, to showcase their previously undermined qualities. If Jürgen Klopp opts to select Kevin Großkreutz, I think it will more than likely prove a wise decision. This season may have been the player’s weakest on paper but if given a chance in the Champions League final, it could be the one that cements his place as a club legend at Borussia Dortmund.