"Playing for HSV again is a dream come true for my children, my wife and obviously me," said Ivica Olić after completing his move from VfL Wolfsburg to Hamburger SV – where he is embarking on a second spell following a successful two-and-a-half-year stint with Die Rothosen from 2007–09.
The Croatia forward has chosen to leave second-placed Wolfsburg, a side who have progressed to the UEFA Europa League knockout stage and are in the third round of the German Cup, for a team battling relegation from the Bundesliga. However, his return to Hamburg is clearly a matter of the heart for Olić, who wishes to take up a position at the club and live with his family in his "dream city" once his career ends.
The 35-year-old, whose former employers include NK Marsonia, Hertha BSC Berlin, GNK Dinamo Zagreb, PFC CSKA Mosvka and FC Bayern München, first joined Hamburg in January 2007 after lifting the 2004/05 UEFA Cup and three Russian titles with the Army Men.
The often unheralded marksman registered 29 goals in 78 top-flight games for HSV, becoming a fan favourite before his performances earned a transfer to Bayern in 2009. He scored on his debut for the Bavarians against TSG 1899 Hoffenheim and secured a regular place in a star-studded lineup coached by Jürgen Klinsmann and later Jupp Heynckes.
His work-rate has impressed supporters and coaches alike wherever he has played. "Ivica has something that not many players have," Heynckes said. "He is driven throughout the 90 minutes, which makes him stand out." Mario Gomez, a former team-mate in Bavaria, was full of praise too: "He's crazy. Sometimes he'd be near me and I'd think he was about to collapse, but then he'd go on a 40-metre sprint."
Olić's finest hour in a Bayern shirt came on 27 April 2010. With his side leading 1-0 from the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semi-final against Olympique Lyonnais, the striker notched a hat-trick in France – inspiring a 3-0 second-leg triumph. However, his good fortune in Europe would not last as Olić endured the 2-0 defeat by FC Internazionale Milano in the Madrid final. He also featured in the 2012 final against Chelsea FC – missing the crucial penalty as Bayern lost a shoot-out on home soil.
A succession of injuries and a lack of playing time stemming from the prolific form of Gomez prompted Olić to seek a new adventure with Wolfsburg in June 2012. "Ivica is a total professional," said coach Felix Magath at the time. "His determination and work-rate are outstanding. He has always been a key player in his teams." The 100-times-capped Croatian international certainly became a go-to-guy for the Wolves, claiming 28 goals in 78 Bundesliga matches.
Olić also caught the eye on the national-team stage, during the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. He scored for Croatia in their 4-0 win over Cameroon – 12 years on from his first World Cup goal. The only other player to have netted finals goals that far apart was Denmark's Michael Laudrup.
His Hamburg homecoming has been welcomed by coach Josef Zinnbauer, whose side lie 14th in the 18-team table, just two points off the bottom: "He is a superb player and knows the club and the league well. He's obviously going to strengthen the squad."
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