By Jamie Holt
LIONEL MESSI was the name that sprang to mind when Wycombe boss Gareth Ainsworth was trying to describe Max Kretzschmar’s style of play. But, for boyhood Chelsea fan Max, his hero has always been Gianfranco Zola.
Kretzschmar, 20, has starred this season despite the Chairboys’ struggle against the League Two drop. Dashes of flair, wonder goals – his strike against Exeter at the end of February a particular highlight – as well as a slight 11-stone frame make him a unique specimen in the cut and thrust of the fourth tier.
So much so that Ainsworth had no hesitation in comparing his No.10 to four-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi.
“Look at David Silva and Lionel Messi,” Ainsworth said after Kretzschmar’s 30-yard winner against the Grecians.
“They use what they have to the absolute maximum, and that’s what Max has learnt to do.”
While Kretzschmar brushes off comparisons with Barcelona’s little Argentine, he did let his mind wander back to his days spent at Stamford Bridge watching the mercurial Zola.
“He was a brilliant player, so clever on the ball and creative, I’m a Chelsea fan so when I was much younger me and my dad would go and watch them,” said 5ft 10ins Kretzschmar.
“I like the way he played, I just love that No.10 position and creating chances and scoring goals.
“Assisting a goal is as good as scoring for me, obviously you get the headlines for the goals but I get as much pleasure from the creating side of things.”
Kretzschmar certainly made the headlines back in September when his double from the bench saw off Hartlepool.
That was before he even made a league start for Wycombe, and the Kingston-upon-Thames-born starlet admits it has taken time to adjust.
“I’ve been a bit surprised with how well I’ve done to be honest, this is my first full season in the Football League after all,” he added.
“I’m pretty happy with my performances, I think in your first ten or 15 games adrenaline carries you through.
“I will admit after that Hartlepool game I took a bit of a dip in form, and I was out of the side for a while.
“But Gareth is an honest guy, he’s not two-faced, it’s his first job as a manager and he’s doing great and taking me out of the team was a good thing.
“I’m only just starting to get 90 minutes under my belt, it’s a physical league but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.
“I’ve been getting in the extra hours at the gym, that’s a weakness of mine and obviously you try to work on those weaknesses to make yourself a better player – the boss has been telling me to do it.”
Ainsworth has been so impressed by his slightly-built midfielder he has a guaranteed place in the side over the next few weeks – albeit sometimes in a slightly wider position from the left.
It’s a big responsibility on such young shoulders, particularly with Wanderers so precariously placed in the table.
“Results are the main thing at the moment, I’m definitely happy to sacrifice my own position for the sake of the team,” he continued.
“The league is so tight at the moment that we’re not too worried, no one has breezed us this season, we’ve been competitive and I think we’ll be okay.”