Angelos Haristeas may have been Greece’s goalscoring hero at Euro 2004 but he has been forced to assume the role of understudy to impressive Croat Ivan Klasnic at German champions Werder Bremen.

The 24-year-old Hamburg-born forward is arguably the most improved player in Germany over the past 18 months. He was a key factor in Werder’s run to the German title last term, scoring 13 goals and making another 11 for Brazilian strike partner Ailton, now with Schalke.

Although Klasnic needs to improve his heading, his other qualities are undeniable – quick acceleration, a feel for a scoring opportunity and precise left-footed finishing make him the perfect predator.

Werder general manager Klaus Allofs says: “He is now deservedly rated among the best strikers in the Bundesliga and I’m convinced there’s much more to come.”

It is only relatively recently that Klasnic’s career has slipped into top gear. His first two seasons at Werder following a move from Hamburg side St Pauli in summer 2001 were marked by erratic form and two serious knee injuries. But those difficulties served only to concentrate his mind.

“I realised the clock was ticking on my time in the game,” recalls Klasnic, who was surprisingly an unused member of Croatia’s Euro 2004 squad. “I decided that from then on, I would work as hard as I could each day.”

Club Werder Bremen (Ger)
Country Croatia
Born January 29, 1980, in Hamburg
Previous clubs Union 03 Hamburg,
TSV Stellingen, St Pauli
International debut February 2004, v Germany
International caps 4 (1 gl)
Honours German League 2004; German Cup 2004

This profile originally apppeared in the January 2005 issue of World Soccer