Germany international Annike Krahn embodies all the qualities you could wish for in a rock-solid defender, with her deep reserves of fighting spirit, will to win and commitment to the team. These attributes have brought the model professional great success both on the domestic front and internationally.
The centre-back is one of the best when it comes to challenging for the ball, and is a master of positioning too. A FIFA Women's World Cup winner in 2007 and European champion two years later, she is a skilled reader of the game and typically intervenes before dangerous situations can arise.
Krahn spent many successful years in the German Women's Bundesliga, but opted for a complete change of scene this summer. The 27-year-old accepted an offer from French top-flight club Paris Saint-Germain and set off for foreign shores. “I want to continue my development as a footballer, and I'm really up for an adventure," Krahn exclusively told FIFA.com.
PSG aiming for the top
The defender, who spent eight seasons as a regular with FCR Duisburg, made 146 Bundesliga appearances and finished runner-up in the league five times. She is also a two-time winner of the German Cup and once hoisted the UEFA Women's Champions League trophy. However, the time came for a change. “Turning my back on my home country wasn't easy, but I've decided to accept a new challenge, and I'm confident it will bring new inspiration," the Germany international said.
The interest shown by Paris Saint-Germain, a club with great ambitions on the woman's footballing stage, came at just the right time. PSG are undergoing a rapid and substantial transformation at the moment, and are aiming to close the gap to the top of the French league as quickly as possible. Farid Benstiti, previously in charge of Lyon and rates as one of the most experienced women's football coaches, is now in charge in the French capital. The club have also brought in big-name players such as Krahn's long-serving Duisburg and Germany team-mate Linda Bresonik and talented young US striker Lindsay Horan.
“Obviously, we have to gel as a team in the first place, but there's lots of quality in the squad and our goal is definitely to qualify for the UEFA Champions League," said Krahn. She is eager to learn and play under new boss Benstiti: “He's a really big name in women's football. I hope he'll help me take another step forward and improve my game."
Bigger club, more scope
The PSG squad has been carefully assembled to incorporate quality and the necessary depth. The experience brought by the likes of Krahn is balanced by a crop of talented youngsters, who will be looking to the woman capped 82 times by her country for leadership and inspiration. “I think I've been brought in with certain expectations, which I'll try and meet as best I can. These especially relate to helping and leading the younger players, although that can obviously only work out if I'm performing well myself," said the 2008 Olympic bronze medallist.
Leadership is a proven quality in Krahn's case, as she spent a substantial period of time as a charismatic captain of her former club. “Naturally, the first job for me is to settle down and acclimatise to life in Paris as soon as possible. Most of all, I have to learn the language. After that I'll work on my role in the team, but I'm looking for responsibility, which I'm happy to shoulder," the defender declared. An important factor will be her newly-acquired coaching qualification after she successfully took her badges in the summer. Krahn is the kind of player who thinks ahead on the field, and has done similarly in her professional life with a clear eye on a coaching role in the future.
Just a few weeks into her stint at PSG, she is impressed with what she has found. “It's all on a much bigger scale here. The structures are absolutely professional, and you sense something big coming together." A new wave of enthusiasm for women's football in France is not confined to Paris, as interest seems to be on the rise all over the country. French first division matches are shown live on television, “which is obviously fantastic for us, and makes it even more fun when you sense this growing euphoria," Krahn remarked.
Keen to retain Germany role
As for the German national team, the battle for places has become fiercer than ever before. Coach Silvia Neid picks from an ever-larger roster of suitable candidates, with a highly successful youth policy - the Germany juniors recently finished runners-up at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Japan - providing a conveyor belt of talented new faces.
One potential downside of switching to Paris is that Krahn has moved outside Neid's immediate radius, but the player remains in typically fighting mood: “I'll keep putting myself forward by delivering the goods for my club and in training with the national team, so the coach simply can't ignore me."
Krahn shone as Germany marched through qualifying for UEFA EURO 2013, and she is naturally now hoping for a successful tournament. The centre-back reckons moving abroad could ultimately give her the edge when it comes to the national team: “There's a lot of competition for the two centre-back positions, but maybe moving to PSG will be the decisive boost I need to win the fight for a place."