It is significant that Niclas Füllkrug attracted attention in the circle of the national football team not only because he was the only one of his kind in the squad of national coach Hansi Flick as a center forward, but because he is normal in relation to the rest of the squad in an almost extroverted way . Funny, relaxed, modest, down-to-earth, enthusiastic, fearless and grateful – in a burnt word: authentic – that’s apparently enough to travel as an exotic in the first-class compartment of football. Like a scholarship holder from a humble background in an elite boarding school: it sometimes seemed like the filling jug has stayed the way some of the DFB team would like it to be.
Not only his goals, but his unsettlingly carefree manner at this level have brought the late-calling new international to unexpected fame. There was hardly anyone among the national team’s critics and fans who didn’t want to see him in Flick’s starting XI at some point during the tournament, which was unfortunate from a German perspective. Except for Hansi Flick himself.
The World Cup in Qatar apparently did not cause any permanent damage to the attacker. After the tournament he scored just as reliably for his club Werder Bremen as before, the goals in the surprising 2-1 win against VfL Wolfsburg were already the goals of the season twelve and 13 for Niclas Füllkrug. When it was 1-0 in the 24th minute, he not only put his entire self-confidence on the penalty spot, but also converted it very safely with an intermediate step à la Lewandowski. At 2-0 he remained attentive, although the ball only fell in front of his feet after a provocatively wide attack from Bremen. How many goals could it end up being? It doesn’t matter, said Füllkrug, “now I’ll concentrate on the fourteenth”.
In an unmistakable way, Füllkrug again underpinned his role in the precarious now of his club on Saturday. He is, as they say, the sporting risk life insurance for Werder Bremen, Füllkrug’s goals are almost always the decisive ones on the way through a sporting possibly carefree season. Unfortunately, he is also the capital life insurance for the financially ailing North German football company: Selling the 29-year-old crowd favorite would reduce the club’s debt and increase the goodwill of the banks. The club presumably shares the fact that most clubs in the league never have enough money, but only a few are so open about it.
The fact that there hasn’t even been butter cake with half-time coffee in the press room of the Weser Stadium for some time for budget reasons is the culinary painful but insignificant expression of a financial crisis that is reflected much more prominently in the activities on the winter transfer market. There just wasn’t one. Sports director Clemens Fritz said recently that Werder is not a club that can afford to withhold money for the winter in summer. Only two clubs haven’t treated themselves to a single player in the current transfer window. This is understandable for the well-stocked people of Freiburg; with Bremen, whose squad behind the first eleven consists almost exclusively of youth, talent and promises for the future, it is pure renunciation. “No financial leeway,” said coach Ole Werner on Saturday, “even if I wanted something, it would be difficult.”
The only extravagance after Qatar: Füllkrug has switched to a large consulting agency.
So the Bremen team sighs, flattens their noses at the transfer window and watches how the others outside, sometimes desperate, sometimes hopeful, bring new staff into the house. Instead, despite sporting hiccups in the meantime (four defeats, 4:17 goals), Bremen inevitably follow the credo of their coach, who likes to “stay with himself”, personally as in general. Don’t look at the others, don’t let them make you nervous, trust your own strengths: against Wolfsburg, that worked out really well against Wolfsburg in a game that Werder led formidably and playfully.
Also, of course, thanks to Niclas Füllkrug. The current top scorer in the Bundesliga could change clubs by Tuesday, but with every hour that passes, it is becoming less likely. As possibly the only extravagance owed to the new celebrity, Füllkrug changed its management after the World Cup. Now he is no longer represented by the Hanoverian Gunther Neuhaus, whose by far most famous client was Füllkrug, but by the Roof agency. On their welcome video on the Internet, Kai Havertz, Serge Gnabry, Sadio Mané and Marc-André ter Stegen immediately jump out at you. “I just wanted to try something different,” said Füllkrug. A transfer this January was therefore not the goal.
The club’s statement that, like Füllkrug, they assume that he will stay with Werder for the second half of the season “was agreed with me,” said the player, “I was totally relaxed the whole time”. Any offers that were made to him, “I rejected in the first instance and didn’t even let Werder go”. The player as the first instance of his own future and as the last instance on the pitch who wupps the ball into the goal – a lot, if not everything, revolves around Niclas Füllkrug in Bremen.
The new agent may help to ensure that from the summer, Füllkrug gets back a few years of his career, which he toiled through the second division, on the pay slip elsewhere. At Werder he has been playing for less money since his contract was extended (until 2025) – his salary has been reduced by 30 percent, according to the margin that has never been denied. “I have to die if I want to stay here,” he said last summer. You can imagine the faces of Havertz, Gnabry or ter Stegen when he told them that in the World Cup quarters.
But he’s in no hurry. If an “immoral offer” does not come in by Tuesday, to which the club cannot say no (“Werder is a commercial enterprise”), then he will stay until the summer. It shows character, said Füllkrug, if you tackle things where you are, instead of taking the “easy step” elsewhere. What Werder fans like to hear before they walk into the fan shop and order a salmon-colored shirt for 89.95 euros and have eight letters flocked on it. By the way, the lettering “Füllkrug” is available there for free.