Robbie Kruse’s Rocky Road to Relevancy

To date, the career of Robbie Kruse has been full of challenges. At 29, Kruse faces one of his biggest seasons to date as he looks to be 1 of 23 on the plan to Russia as a part of the Socceroos’ squad. Born in Brisbane, Kruse started his footballing career at junior level with Albany Creek near the Brisbane CBD before making the move to the Brisbane Roar in 2006 as an 18-year old.

Kruse made his debut in 2007 against Wellington Phoenix and managed to bag his first A-League goal, which proved to be pivotal as the game-winning goal for the Brisbane Roar. This first professional season for Kruse was a fruitful one welding 4 goals in 14 appearances with the Roar finishing in 4th place. Brisbane would make the finals where they knocked off Sydney FC over two leagues before falling to eventual champions the Newcastle Jets 3-2 after extra time.

With Kruse set to become a starlet in the A-League, the first major set back came prior to the 2008/09 season when the then 20-year old was caught in altercation outside the Normanby Hotel which saw Kruse require stitches. Weeks later, Kruse was involved in another altercation which saw his future with the Roar in doubt. Making just nine appearances in two seasons saw Kruse leave his home town for greener pastures.

Kruse was given a lifeline when A-League champions Melbourne Victory came calling and the move rejuvenated his career. In two seasons with the Victory, Kruse made 47 appearances in all competitions finding the back of the net. The later of the two seasons proving to be the catalyst of Kruse’s potential with 11 goals in 18 A-League appearances sealing the move to 2. Bundesliga club Fortuna Düsseldorf at the commencement of the 2011/12 season.

Chance of a lifetime

At Düsseldorf, Kruse toiled away in his first season making 11 2.Bundesliga appearances with his first assist coming in the 5-2 away win over FSV Frankfurt. But Kruse would would miss the remainder of the 2011/12 campaign after sustaining a stretched ligament and a torn muscle. It was a successful year for Düsseldorf, who won the Bundesliga relegation play-off—a feat no 2.Bundesliga club has matched since.

Kruse returned in high spirits and would receive the start in Fortuna Düsseldorf’s first game in the Bundesliga since 1997. The Australian was the catalyst against Augsburg as he was the provider on both goals to Dani Schahin as Düsseldorf secured their first three points in the Bundesliga. Kruse would continue to start and on matchday 11, the Australian got hot as he was involved in all of Fortuna Düsseldorf’s goal for four matchdays as he produced 2 goals and three assists in that period. The then 23-year old would add two goals and four assists to end his inaugural Bundesliga stay with 4 goals and 9 assists, but it wouldn’t be enough as Düsseldorf were relegated as Augsburg and Hoffenheim managed to win their final games to send the Rhineland club down.

Career Derailment

After an impressive first season in Germany’s top flight, Kruse jumped on the opportunity to sign with Bayer Leverkusen. Although a slow start with Leverkusen, in his first Bundesliga start with Leverkusen Kruse played a pivotal role as he bagged himself a brace and an assist in a 4-1 win over Mainz. But injury would derail Kruse’s career after tearing his cruciate ligament prior to Leverkusen’s matchday 18 clash with Freiburg. Kruse wouldn’t see action until matchday 7 of the 2014/15 season where he came off the bench to assist Karim Bellarabi’s late equaliser against SC Paderborn. With Kruse in and out of the squad, it seemed Kruse’s career was on hold in Leverkusen and with a season ending ligament injury keeping the Australian out until the start of the 2015/16 season.

With Leverkusen looking to get match fitness into Robbie Kruse, General Manager Rüdi Voller sent the Australian out on loan to Stuttgart. But like had been the case for the past two seasons, injury would derail Kruse’s progress as he would make only four appearances in all competitions for Stuttgart; all coming off the bench. The loan deal was cancelled by Stuttgart after matchday 19 as Kruse returned to Leverkusen nursing a toe injury which wouldn’t see the Australian available until matchday 23. From their on out, Kruse was on the outer at Leverkusen making seven Bundesliga appearances in an entire calendar year.

As patience ran out with Robbie Kruse, Leverkusen would sell the Australian on January 22nd for €500,000 to Chinese Super League club Liaoning FC. The move to China posed as a good chance to return to form and prove to the naysayers that he could sustain longevity. Initially the move worked well with Kruse starting his first two games and provided two assist in the 1-1 draws with Guizhou Hengfeng Zhicheng and Henan Jianye. However, Kruse’s time in China wouldn’t last much longer with a further two appearances before terminating his contract as Liaoning FC had failed to pay his wages.

Hitting the reset button

The career of Robbie Kruse was in limbo and his next decision seemed to shape his opportunity at international level. Returning to the A-League with Melbourne Victory would’ve been the easy option and drop into footballing irrelevancy or try again in Europe and hope it works out. VfL Bochum were looking for players with quickness out wide after a poor season saw Gertjan Verbeek sacked.

Kruse fit the profile of what Bochum were looking for with the Australian signing a two-year contract with the Ruhr district club. With a fresh start and an opportunity to reinvigorate his career, Kruse would make his debut on matchday 2 against MSV Duisburg. His first start would come the later on against Arminia Bielefeld before getting red hot which saw Kruse produce two goals and an assist in three matchdays which helped Bochum win two of those three encounters. The Australian’s best performance came on matchday 10 when Kruse produced two assists in an important 2-0 win over then third placed Sandhausen.

On the whole, Kruse has made 14 appearances in the Hinrunde for Bochum and although the struggles of his club which has already seen a change in management the 29-year-old has been one bright spot Die Unabsteigbaren. Kruse is ranked 79th in 2. Bundesliga player rankings according to Whoscored and is only one of three players from Bochum in the top 100, the others being Danilo Soares (29th) and Anthony Losilla (30th). The Australian has an excellent partnership with midfielder Kevin Stöger with the Austrian responsible for three of four goals scored from Kruse. That’s equal best in the league.

At 29, Robbie Kruse faces a career defining year with the FIFA World Cup just around the corner. Kruse has had a mixed career to date but now with VfL Bochum the Australian has found himself a home. The question that lingers over Robbie Kruse’s career is whether he can produce consistently and if he can avoid injury.

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Matthew is currently partaking in a Bachelor of Management (Marketing) at the University of South Australia and has been a RealSport’s writer since December of 2016 He predominately devotes his fandom to German football where he’s a passionate Schalke 04 supporter, and competes as a goalkeeper for the Rostrevor Old Collegians Soccer Club in Adelaide’s Collegiate Soccer League. Follow @MatthewKaragich

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