With the January transfer window in full swing and the rumours engulfing daily media sources, one quite spectacular signing that is close to being completed is Leicester City’s unlikely swoop to bring Andrej Kramarić to England.
The 23-year-old Croatian striker has been sending European scouts back to their respective clubs with rave reviews over the last 18 months and it is fair to say that the attacker is one of the hottest prospects in European football.
Kramarić rose through the ranks at Dinamo Zagreb, making his debut as an 18-year-old but having mixed fortunes over four years in the club’s senior squad.
For one reason or another the centre forward found himself in and out of the team, both before and after a mightily impressive loan stint at Lokomotiva Zagreb.
Since his 2013 switch to HNK Rijeka, Kramarić has been consistently proving his Dinamo doubters wrong and making headlines with his goalscoring exploits; his official Prva HNL league statistics stand at an astonishing 37 goals in 42 games over the space of 18 months.
This season he has replicated his domestic ruthlessness in Europe with seven strikes in the Europa League, including a hat-trick against Feyenoord, while a call-up to the Croatian senior squad has heralded two goals in four caps.
Given his devastating scoring record at club level to date, accompanied by a consistent strike rate for Croatian national age-grade sides, there is little doubting Kramarić knows the way to the back of the net and the entirety of Europe has sat up and taken note.
With the striker clearly ready for a move to one of the continent’s major divisions, superpower clubs have been touted as potential destinations.
Up until recently it appeared that one of the most affluent and prominent clubs in the world, Chelsea, would win the race for his signature, only for Leicester to pull a substantial surprise.
Media sources all over Europe reported that the Blues wanted Kramarić, bids had been accepted, talks were ongoing, medicals were being arranged and it was only a matter of time before he was a Chelsea player.
At the time of writing Rijeka have confirmed on their official website that their star man is heading to Leicester, with clarification expected soon from the English side as Chelsea look to have been beaten.
The move, if and when it happens, has a number of significant connotations for the player, clubs involved and the market as a whole.
For Kramarić a new challenge awaits; one where he will play week-in, week-out in the Premier League if he is fit and available – something he would have dreamed of a couple of years ago.
However, with Nigel Pearson’s men rooted to the bottom of the table with only 14 points from their opening 20 league games, the pressure on the Croat to be an instant success will be palpable at the King Power Stadium.
If Kramarić cannot inspire Leicester to top-tier salvation his exposure to the Premier League could well only last 18 games before demotion to The Championship and an inevitable transfer elsewhere.
Without being disrespectful to a Leicester side that have played some good football at times this season and that have more often than not found luck evading them, Kramarić surely had no shortage of suitors and could have picked a more secure and established top-tier club.
For Leicester and their reported club-record £9 million fee, it is a sizeable gamble given that Kramarić will have to adjust to a new league, country, club and culture; some would argue that a player like Jermain Defoe, who is said to be available and knows English football, is better placed to make an immediate impact.
One way or the other, the Foxes must be commended for their ambition and doing everything they can to avoid the drop, while Kramarić certainly has the quality to be a hit if things fall into place.
The sidenote to Kramarić’s proposed move to Leicester takes on something of a David against Goliath feel, which could be a good omen in the club’s hopes to avoid relegation.
With Chelsea very keen to sign the eastern European hitman according to the player’s father, the fact that Kramarić is set to turn down the current Premier League leaders makes quite the statement.
Much has been made of the West London club’s array of young stars that have been hand-picked from around the world to feature in the reserve ranks, feeder clubs and on loan across Europe.
Taking the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne as the most prominent examples, Chelsea’s facade of promoting youth has the feel of a money-laundering scheme and obviously has financial implications attached to it – which they have every right to do until the loan regulations are reevaluated.
With this in mind and eager not to end up as another number being farmed out to a lesser club, Kramarić has seemingly turned down the Blues in favour of immediate first-team football. This makes sense, but it would have been difficult to do given Chelsea’s aura, success and standing.
It will be interesting to see if other young starlets in similar positions in the future can show as much courage and defiance when the Blues come knocking, and whether Chelsea’s ability to hoover up top youngsters due to their financial wealth continues given the sheer number of players on their books.
Most importantly though is that Kramarić looks set to have landed his big move and will be thrown into English football’s deep-end; the Premier League relegation battle certainly becomes decidedly more interesting with his impending switch to Leicester.