March 25, 2017

Stalwart Ivica Olić remains hungry with the Wolves

He is a nightmare for any defender. Full of guile and tenacity, Ivica Olić is the epitome of a hard-working striker. For this reason, defenders know they’re in for a battle, a 90-minute battle, when facing him.

Olić is a terrier. Hassling defenders as he defends from the front, the energetic striker puts 100% into every performance every time he walks onto a football pitch. This makes him a revered figure within fan circles and an almost cult-like figure, especially in Germany.

The Croat first moved to Germany in 1998 when he joined Hertha BSC from Croatian team Marsonia. Unfortunately, it was a move which proved unsuccessful, ending with Olić returning to Croatia to continue his development.

He quickly became one of the best players in Croatia and quickly outgrew the competition there. In 2003, the striker was picked up by Russian outfit CSKA Moscow.

This move proved successful. His drive and determination led CSKA’s attack on both the domestic and European fronts. The striker helped the Moscow side to Russian Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006 while also claiming the 2005 UEFA Cup with a 3-1 victory over Sporting Lisbon.

In the 2007 January transfer window, Germany beckoned once again with Hamburg as the destination. This. only a month after scoring against Hamburger SV for CSKA in a 3-2 Champions League defeat.

Despite his form for CSKA, he took some time to settle in northern Germany, scoring just five goals in 15 appearances. Though, his production helped Hamburg to a seventh-place finish and Intertoto Cup qualification.

During the 2007-08 season, Olić really announced himself to the rest of Europe with a terrific season in the Bundesliga, scoring 14 times in his first full season there and helping Hamburg to fourth place while also winning the Intertoto Cup.

Prominent in attack, Olić went on to score 48 times in 115 appearances for HSV. How times have changed since in northern Germany!

Widely lauded with the utmost respect for his verve and vigor, guess who flew in to poach him? Bayern Munich of course.

In 2009-10, the Croat swapped north Germany for Bavaria. An instant hit and revered by the fans, Olić helped lead Bayern to the Bundesliga and DFB Pokal titles, scoring in the Cup final. He even starred in the Champions League when he bagged a hat-trick against Olympique Lyonnais in the semi-final. The treble dream was not realized, however, as Louis Van Gaal’s men lost to José Mourinho’s Inter Milan side in the final.

Olić finished that campaign with a respectable 19 goals in 43 appearances.

Unfortunately, that was all the enjoyment he would see while at Bayern, as a serious injury ruled him out of the following season, leaving him to start in just three Bundesliga matches as Bayern finished third.

He failed to re-establish himself at the Allianz Arena and was a bit-player in the 2011-12 season with just four starts in 20 appearances as his time with the Bavarian side fizzled out.

The striker remained in Germany once more as he signed on a free for Wolfsburg where he rediscovered some of his form with consistent game time, as well as adding some spectacular flair to his consistent endeavors with goals like this.

This season, at 34 years of age, you could understand if Olić started to slow, not have that hunger to chase every loose ball, or not battle with every defender for every ball. But you would be mistaken to assume it. The Croat is playing some of his best football and is leading Wolfsburg’s attack, this within a team of high-earners and huge potential that include Kevin de Bruyne, Maximilian Arnold, and Luiz Gustavo. Pretty impressive isn’t it?

The perilous poacher has netted 12 goals so far in the Bundesliga, with the prospect of finishing the season with his highest goal tally of his Bundesliga career. He needs three goals in the remaining four matches to achieve it. If he can reproduce this type of goal from earlier in the season, you wouldn’t bet against him.

Throughout this campaign, he has been linked to a move to the English Premier League with Stoke City. This week he stated in Kicker magazine, “My tendency is to stay in Wolfsburg. I expect to be a part of this team in the new season.”

Who would blame him with the allure of Champions League football at the Volkswagen Arena next season emerging as a real possibility?

There hasn’t yet been a contract extension between player and club, but Olić  will aim to arrange that soon as he prepares for what realistically looks like his last World Cup with Croatia.

One of the most underrated players in the Bundesliga, Ivica Olić looks as hungry as ever with the Wolves.

Follow Tom on twitter @TWRowland

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