Andrej Kramaric set himself a goal before the 2020-21 season started.
Despite missing much of last season through injury, the 29-year-old striker scored 12 times in 19 Bundesliga appearances for Hoffenheim – a tally that was topped up by four goals on the final day of the season against Borussia Dortmund.
“Many strikers can’t match that goal ratio. And my stats can get even better if I play every game,” Kramaric told Sport Bild. “I’m happy that I’m no longer injured.
“I’d like to score 17 goals, just like I did two years ago. I really want it to be a great season, and I will give everything to achieve this.
“But I also have to say in the last four years I missed our pre-season preparations, either due to injuries or because I played at the European Championship or the World Cup, but I still scored a lot of goals.”
Kramaric’s injury-free off-season has paid dividends already, and after just two Bundesliga games he is more than a quarter of the way to his goal target.
The Croatia international has long since recovered from a disappointing spell in the Premier League, where he bagged just four goals in 20 games after becoming Leicester City’s then-record signing at £9 million ($11.5m) in January 2015.
The Foxes loaned him out to Hoffenheim 12 months later before eventually selling him to the German club, where Kramaric has flourished, scoring at least 12 goals in each of his full seasons in Sinsheim.
This term, he has seven goals in all competitions already, netting a hat-trick on the opening weekend against Koln before scoring twice in the DFB-Pokal and then bagging two more in last weekend’s shock 4-1 win over Bayern Munich, which ended the European champions’ run of 32 games without defeat.
Kramaric’s first goal against Bayern was a brilliantly taken effort where he controlled the ball expertly while holding off Joshua Kimmich before finding the net with an instinctive finish.
At Hoffenheim, he has found the killer instinct he lacked at Leicester and is already the club’s record goalscorer despite only joining in 2016.
Before travelling to the Rhein-Neckar-Arena, Bayern head coach Hansi Flick singled out Kramaric as the main danger, calling him “one of the best strikers in the Bundesliga”.
“He’s a player you have to watch out for because he has a lot of qualities in the last third and in the box, but who is also able to outplay someone with his dribbling and movement,” he added.
After the 4-1 demolition, even more people started talking about Kramaric’s qualities, with Germany legend Lothar Matthaus believing the forward has the ability to line out for the Champions League winners.
“Hansi Flick’s praise a few days ago was no accident,” Matthaus told Sky Germany. “Kramaric has already scored five goals after two match days and has also scored twice in the cup.
“He is a player who, in my opinion, definitely has the potential for Bayern Munich.”
Robert Lewandowski has been crowned the Bundesliga’s top scorer in five of the last seven seasons and, after Timo Werner’s move to Chelsea, it looked as if only Dortmund wonderkid Erling Haaland would challenge the Pole for the title this season.
However, a new contender has emerged, and if Kramaric can stay fit he could be the player to end Lewandowski’s dominance in the race for the Torjagerkanone.
The last two runners-up to Lewandowski no longer play in Germany (Werner and Paco Alcacer), while 2016-17 winner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is now at Arsenal.
Lewandowski cannot be prised away from Munich, but his nearest competitors have a history of attracting attention from bigger teams, and Kramaric admitted in January that he would be tempted by a bigger side.
“I play in a big league, and I’m very satisfied at Hoffenheim, even though it’s not the biggest club in the world,” he admitted.
“Every footballer wants to play for one of the biggest clubs, that’s clear, but I have no pressure to leave.
“I have proven what I can do and reached a certain status over the last few years. But I want more – with Hoffenheim as well as Croatia.
“If I get the chance to accomplish more, I will take it.”
Kramaric has already taken the chances that have come his way on the pitch this season, and when he inevitably smashes his personal goal for the season, the former Leicester flop will definitely have plenty of clubs lining up to offer him another shot at the big time.