Kevin Kuranyi praised Sasa Kalajdzic for supporting the Stuttgart star to join one of Europe’s biggest clubs, sparking growing interest.
Kalajdzic enjoyed a fairytale first season in the Bundesliga, scoring 14 goals and providing four assists after Stuttgart returned to the German top flight. Only Robert Lewandowski (36), Erling Haaland (25), Andre Silva (25), Wout Weghorst (20) and Andrej Kramaric (17) found the back of the net more often in 2020-2021.
The 23-year-old Austria international forward, who has been linked with Juventus, Tottenham, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig, has scored in seven consecutive games this season – a club record shared with Fredi Bobic (1995-96) .
Kalajdzic has managed 14 goals in 30 Bundesliga appearances – the same amount as Kuranyi in his first 30 league games for the club, although his minutes-to-goal ratio (134) is higher than that of the retired striker ( 152). His form helped Stuttgart reach the top 10 on the table with just three games to go.
Only five players in Stuttgart Bundesliga history have scored more goals in their first 30 games than Kuranyi and Kalajdzic: Vedad Ibisevic (18), Hermann Ohlicher (17), Dieter Holler, Tim Walter and Jurgen Klinsmann (15 ).
Asked about Kalajdzic, the great Kuranyi from Stuttgart told Stats Perform News: “I think they are playing a very good season, while Sasa is playing really very well.
“I think two weeks ago he scored a similar headed goal [to] my time and I remembered, wow, this guy can really be a top player in the Bundesliga or maybe at a big club in Europe.
“I know him because I met him several times in rehabilitation because when he arrived in Stuttgart, he was a bit injured. He’s a great personality, he’s a good guy with a good mentality and also a nice person.
“I really wish him a great career and hope he will continue to do well.
Pellegrino Matarazzo’s Stuttgart have another valuable asset to Silas Wamangituka, who was storming the Bundesliga before suffering a late-season injury in March.
The electrifying 21-year-old forward Wamangituka had 11 goals and four assists before the knee injury, having played a key role in promoting Stuttgart to the 2. Bundesliga last season.
“I’m really impressed because he’s a fast player. He’s good one-on-one, he scores a lot of goals, ”added ex-German international Kuranyi.
“[He] It was a big risk at the start, but now the player is showing his quality. Of course, it is very serious that he was injured, but if he returns he will show it again and keep advancing in Stuttgart.
Former Dortmund and Arsenal chief scout Sven Mislintat – working alongside Thomas Hitzlsperger – has been instrumental in overseeing Stuttgart’s comeback to the Bundesliga after being appointed sporting director two years ago.
With reputations for unearthing football gems, Kalajdzic and Wamangituka both arrived in Mislintat’s time to the three-time Bundesliga champions, who were relegated in 2018-19 but rebounded straight away.
“I think [he has been] very important, ”Kuranyi said. “Of course he worked for big clubs like Dortmund and Arsenal, he understands football a lot.
“He did scouting in all these clubs and he finds a lot of high level players, young players. And now, as a sporting director, he can use all his talent, what they have learned in the past to create his own team and he is [doing] really, really good. I think for Stuttgart it was a good decision to take a guy like him.
Although there is speculation about Kalajdzic, captain Gonzalo Castro is set to leave Stuttgart after not being given a new deal at the Mercedes-Benz Arena.
“For me, it was [a] surprise because he is currently the team captain, ”said Kuranyi. “He’s an experienced player, who can keep this young team together and who can show them the right way to play good football.
“It was difficult to see this decision. For the player and for everyone it is good to keep strong and experienced players on the team.
Kuranyi left the Stuttgart youth squad in 2001 after leaving Brazil and the ex-Germany international won the 2002 UEFA Intertoto Cup.
Two-time Stuttgart’s top scorer, Kuranyi almost helped the club to Bundesliga glory in 2002-03, with Felix Magath’s men finishing second behind Bayern Munich as they qualified for the Champions League.
“For me it was something special because when I came from Brazil I started in Stuttgart and in the young team,” said Kuranyi, 39, who scored 57 goals in total before joining Schalke in 2005.
“I learned a lot at this club and when I turned professional they had a bad time, but it was good for us young players. They gave us the chance to play in the first team, to be a good professional player at 19.
“We took advantage of this situation to form one of the best young teams in the league. Of course, we qualified for the Champions League. We were playing [a] really, really the best Champions League season with so many young players and for them and also for the city, Stuttgart was something special. Also, for me as a player.
Stuttgart enjoyed a memorable 2003-04 Champions League campaign, with Kuranyi scoring as the Reds beat Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in their first group stage appearance as they reached the round of 16.
Kuranyi, whose side ultimately succumbed to Chelsea in the round of 16, added: “I think this is the best moment. [of my time with the club] It was when we were playing the Champions League and we beat Manchester United with the great players: [Ruud] Van Nistelrooy, Cristiano Ronaldo, [Paul] Scholes, [Rio] Ferdinand and [Ryan] Giggs.
“For us, young players with Phillip Lahm, [Alexander] Hleb, myself and other top players, it was a really, really special time to show the world that Stuttgart can beat a great club like Manchester United.