Newcastle United may well be ruing their inability to sign Croatia international, Andrej Kramaric, with the prolific forward having made a stunning impact for his country at the World Cup in Qatar so far.
The 5 foot 10 marksman was reportedly a target for the Magpies back in the summer of 2018 during Rafa Benitez’s stint at the helm, with the northeast side having been said to have been scouting the centre-forward for well over a year at the time.
The suggestion was, however, that the former Dinamo Zagreb man – who had previously endured an unsuccessful, brief spell at Leicester City in the Premier League – would cost the Tynesiders a reported fee of around £44m to prise him from the Bundesliga side, Hoffenheim, with that fact potentially resulting in an end to their pursuit.
While that may have been understandable given the rather sizeable nature of the asking price and the player’s previous woes in English football with the Foxes – with whom he scored just four goals – there will still be an element of frustration at having seen Kramaric go on to shine since then.
Now 31, the experienced asset boasts a remarkable haul of 196 club career goals to date, having scored 106 goals and laid on 49 assists during his time in Germany, while notably netting 55 goals in just 64 games for Rijeka in his homeland.
The dynamic forward – who can also operate on the flanks or in an attacking midfield role – has now showcased his finishing prowess on the international stage following his latest heroics in the win over Canada on Sunday, having netted twice to steer his side to a 4-1 victory.
The 76-cap gem saw a fine early finish ruled out following a tight offside call, before lashing home on the turn to drag the 2018 finalists level soon after, with the European outfit having fallen behind in the opening exchanges following Alphonso Davies’ fine header.
Kramaric then added to his tally after the break to all but seal the win – following Marko Livaja’s earlier effort – with the £49k-per-week ace showing remarkable composure inside the penalty area to cooly slide his effort into the bottom corner, before Lovro Majer added late gloss to the scoreline.
That double now ensures that the one-time Lokomotiva man has 22 goals to his name for his country in 76 outings to date, although it was the striker’s all-round performance in his 73-minute outing that also caught the eye, having won two of his three ground duels, while also recording an 87% pass accuracy rate from his 42 touches.
That outing – which earned the Zagreb-born ace an impressive 7.9 match rating, as per SofaScore – has seen the Hoffenheim man lauded as something of a “hero“, as per journalist Sacha Pisani, with Kramaric potentially only set to add to his tally as the tournament progresses.
In truth, despite their current remarkable form under Eddie Howe, Newcastle may well have missed a trick by not managing to seal a deal for the Croatian all those years ago.