A handful of footballers end up travelling the globe in the course of their careers, but a star player with triple nationality is something of a rarity. Kevin Kuranyi is one of what must surely be an elite group, as the prolific centre-forward does indeed hold three different passports.
The former Germany international was born in Brazilian city Rio de Janeiro back in March 1982, but spent his early youth in Panama, before moving to Germany with his family in 1997. He made the grade as a pro footballer during a spell with Stuttgart, working his way up through the youth section and honing his talent in the reserves, before breaking into the senior squad in 2001.
Golden spell at club level
Kuranyi made his full international debut for Germany two years later and helped Stuttgart to the runners-up spot in the Bundesliga. Consistently strong displays at national and international level then earned the 6'2" front-man a big-money move to Schalke prior to the 2005/06 campaign.
Once in a royal blue shirt, the goal-getter continued to deliver. In 162 appearances for Schalke, Kuranyi netted 71 goals and made a significant contribution to an excellent run for the Gelsenkirchen outfit that included a UEFA Cup semi-final in 2005/06, second place in the league in 2006/07, and the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals in 2007/08.
Kuranyi passed a personal milestone in January 2010 when he scored his tenth top-flight goal of the campaign, meaning he had reached double figures in the Bundesliga for the eighth consecutive season. The only players previously to achieve the feat were Gerd Muller (13 in a row) and Manfred Burgsmuller (ten).
Move to Moscow
At the tail-end of the 2009/10 season, the striker announced he was leaving the Ruhr valley in favour of the Russian top flight and Dinamo Moscow. Speaking exclusively to FIFA.com, Kuranyi explained the background to the somewhat unexpected switch.
"Leaving Gelsenkirchen wasn’t an easy decision, but the move itself wasn’t a problem,” he said. "I think that’s partly because I’ve lived in so many different countries already, and also because my wife Viktorija speaks fluent Russian, which made a lot of things much easier."
The player settled to his new private circumstances with some ease, but his time on the field was not as productive as his spells in Stuttgart and Schalke. Kuranyi finished the season with nine goals in 16 appearances, but he and his new club failed to secure a European qualifying berth after Dinamo finished the 2010 campaign in a disappointing seventh spot.
"Our target was fifth place, but unfortunately we missed it by a couple of points,” said the striker, who nonethelss feels the future holds plenty of promise for Dinamo. “We definitely made a lot of progress compared to the summer. We steadily improved and we didn’t lose to any of the top teams, so we’re heading in the right direction. If we can strengthen the team in two or three specific positions, we can be mixing it at the top next season.”
Everyone knows I want to play, and everyone can see I’m delivering the goods. The rest is out of my hands.
The striker, voted Player of the Year by Dinamo fans, formed a promising partnership with Andriy Voronin, a player he knows well from his Bundesliga days. The Ukraine hitman spent many years in Germany with a long list of clubs including Mainz, Bayer Leverkusen and Hertha Berlin.
Voronin has clearly been a valuable friend and guide to the ex-Germany international. "We get along very well, both on and off the field," Kuranyi told FIFA.com. "Andriy was and remains a great help to me, because he speaks excellent German. And more importantly than that, he’s a great guy.”
The player’s take on his first six months in the Russian capital is definitely upbeat. "I made the decision to come to Russia, and I’ve never regretted it," he said. "The only thing that bothers me is the way people dismiss the game here. Russian football is a lot better than its overseas reputation. Russian clubs’ success in Europe says it all."
Kuranyi and his family are relaxing and enjoying the close season at present, before the player reports back to his club for pre-season training in a few weeks' time. The new campaign does not begin until March, and for Kuranyi, who went straight from the end of term in western Europe to mid-season in the east, it is a very welcome interlude.
"I’m not particularly bothered by the weather, but it’s obviously right to make it a long winter break here. People always go on and on about how much snow we have here, but conditions were fine right up to the final matchday – and we don’t play in the depths of winter. It's all OK,” he explained.
Germany comeback not ruled out
Kuranyi’s chief priority for now is to recharge his batteries and be ready for the new campaign. However, the subject of Germany and whether he might still make an international comeback are never far from his thoughts, and justifiably so in the light of the 28-year-old’s consistently fine form.
The striker last pulled on a Germany shirt on 6 September 2008. However, after he was overlooked for a meeting with Russia a month later and stormed out of the stadium without permission, coach Joachim Low expelled him from the national squad and has not relaxed his stance since. Kuranyi failed to feature at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, not for disciplinary reasons according to Low, but because he was not the right man for the coach’s tactical system.
So, does the player who has twice featured at UEFA EUROs hold out any hope of resuming his international career? "I still believe it in my heart – and it’s probably in the back of my mind too," said the 52-times capped striker. "But I’m refusing to let it become a distraction. Everyone knows I want to play, and everyone can see I’m delivering the goods. The rest is out of my hands."
Happy in new home
On the subject of the global game, Kuranyi was among those glued to his TV set on 2 December 2010 for the announcement of the host nations for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup finals, as Russia were among four candidates to stage the world’s greatest sporting event in 2018.
And when FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter named Russia as hosts for the tournament seven years from now, the outpouring of joy in Moscow and the whole of the republic knew no bounds. The German striker said he absolutely agrees with the decision, and thoroughly welcomes it too.
"In the first instance, I’m overjoyed for the Russian fans, because they deserve an event like this," said Kuranyi as the interview drew to a close. "The World Cup will mean the construction of wonderful new stadiums or the total renovation of existing ones. It’ll give society as a whole a real shot in the arm, but it’ll change the way the outside world looks at the country too. It’ll bring in visitors from all over the world, and they’ll find out that Russia is a remarkable country.”