Vincenzo Grifo + TSG Hoffenheim = A Perfect Match?

With many fans and players alike looking forward to the World Cup finals in Russia this summer, one person already looking beyond that to the start of the 2018-19 Bundesliga season will be Vincenzo Grifo. After a season wasted at Borussia Mönchengladbach, the former Freiburg midfielder will be keen on getting his career back on track at former club Hoffenheim under Julian Nagelsmann.

Back in the summer of 2017, Vincenzo Grifo’s signature was much sought-after following a tremendous season with Freiburg and it came as no surprise that both he and Maximilian Philipp were lured away from the Schwarzwald Stadion. Grifo joined Borussia Mönchengladbach for around €6 million and seemed ready to take his talent to the next level.

What followed was a season blighted by an ill-timed injury, failure to progress beyond a back-up role, and an inability to recreate the attacking form that had seen him score six goals and provide twelve assists in the previous season.

Born in Pforzheim, which is only 55 kilometres from Hoffenheim’s Rhein-Neckar Arena, Grifo started out in the youth ranks of Karlsruher SC before being snapped up by Hoffenheim in 2012. Then trainer Markus Babbel handed him his debut as a substitute against Greuther Fürth and he went on to make 12 appearances in the Bundesliga that season. The following two seasons however saw him sent out on loan at both Dynamo Dresden and then FSV Frankfurt. Seven goals and ten assists in the 2014-15 season in Frankfurt awoke the interest of Freiburg and he moved to the Breisgauer for €1.5 million.

His first season in the Black Forest saw him become an integral part of Christian Streich’s promotion winning side scoring 14 goals and providing 14 assists in 31 Bundesliga 2 appearances throughout the 2015–16 season. He then carried that exquisite form forward into the Bundesliga, helping Freiburg to achieve a more-than-respectable 7th place finish.

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Since originally signing for Freiburg, his star had been in a constant ascendency, but for the first time last season, his progress was stunted with a poor season. Suffering a knee injury the day before the start of his first Bundesliga season with the Fohlen didn’t help and when he did return to full fitness, he found it difficult to force his way into coach Dieter Hecking’s first XI.

He was limited to just nine starts, and ironically his best game came against Hoffenheim on matchday 10 when he provided assists for both Thorgan Hazard and Matthias Ginter in a 3-1 win at the Rhein-Neckar Arena. It is fair to say the move to Gladbach didn’t work out for either party (made worse I suppose by the success enjoyed by fellow summer signings Denis Zakaria and Michael Cuisance).

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“We wish Vincenzo Grifo all the best for the future and the best of luck at Hoffenheim” said Borussia sporting director Max Eberl at the conclusion of his €5.5 million return to Sinsheim.

So it’s a new start, if not at an entirely new home for Grifo. The 25-year-old has signed a contract which runs until June 2022 and he will add depth to a Hoffenheim squad embarking upon Champions League football. “It feels a bit like coming home,” he said. “I still remember my first Bundesliga match in the Rhein-Neckar Arena, and I can hardly describe how much I’m burning to get back in action here. We have an exciting year ahead with a special challenge.”

Just where Grifo will fit into Julian Nagelsmann’s plans (with stiff competition from fellow new arrival Leonardo Bittencourt, Nadiem Amiri and Kerem Demirbay) remains to be seen, but under the tutelage of the young coach, he will fit in quite nicely to the Hoffenheim attacking philosophy.

“You don’t need to say much about the technical quality, tactical wit and outstanding shot power Vince has,” TSG Director of Football Alexander Rosen explained following his signing. “As a versatile attacking player who can make and take goals, he will bring important characteristics to our squad.”

Hoffenheim will be hoping they get Vincenzo Grifo Mark I (the Freiburg version) rather than Vincenzo Grifo Mark II (the Mönchengladbach version).

Now that Grifo has signed with Hoffenheim, take a look at the early Bundesliga betting odds to see how this signing and others have changed the odds.

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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.

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