Kruse stuns Union Berlin with imminent return to Wolfsburg
BERLIN (AP) — Union Berlin’s star player Max Kruse stunned the high-flying club by asking for a transfer to his former team Wolfsburg at the other end of the Bundesliga, with the forward set to rejoin Wolfsburg on the last day of the winter transfer window.
The former Germany striker asked Union fans on Sunday for their “understanding for my decision to accept an offer that is long-term and highly paid.”
Wolfsburg said the 33-year-old Kruse will sign a deal through June 2023 after completing a medical checkup with the Volkswagen-backed club. Union said he was traveling to his new club on Monday.
Kicker magazine reported a fee of 5 million euros ($5.6 million) was agreed between the clubs.
“His departure hits us unexpectedly and it will be a demanding task to compensate for this sporting loss,” Union managing director Oliver Ruhnert said. “However, he really wanted to make the move now, and that’s why we reached an agreement with VfL Wolfsburg.”
Kruse is joining a team that is just two points above the relegation zone after failing to win any of its last 11 games across all competitions. Kruse played for Wolfsburg for the 2015-16 season, then for Werder Bremen under the current Wolfsburg coach Florian Kohfeldt.
“Our story together hasn’t been written to the end,” said Kruse, who also scored four goals in 14 appearances for Germany between 2013-15.
Kruse has scored five goals in 16 Bundesliga appearances this season to help Union surprise many by currently sitting fourth. Altogether he scored 19 goals and set up 12 more in 45 games across all competitions since joining Union from Turkish team Fenerbahçe in 2020.
Union, the only club currently in the Bundesliga to have played in the old East German Oberliga, was only promoted to the reunified country’s top flight in 2019 and has since steadily improved, clinching European qualification last season and confounding rivals by currently occupying the final spot for Champions League qualification. Union also has a German Cup quarterfinal game against St. Pauli on March 2.
“The most successful sporting and economical phase of our club’s history is not only down to many players, coaches and employees, but also to Max Kruse, we won’t forget that. But if he consciously decides against the chance to make history with Union this season, we accept that,” said Union president Dirk Zingler, who said he discussed the transfer with Ruhnert and Union coach Urs Fischer.
“We mutually decided not to contractually keep Max at Union against his will, but to have the sporting loss appropriately compensated financially,” Zingler said.
“No decision is easy and I know what’s coming,” Kruse said. “But it’s my decision. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for all Unioners and I’m sure that the team will finish the season successfully.”
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