Written by Ben Griffis
Latvian striker Raimonds Krollis ended the 2022 Virsliga season as the top scorer, scoring 24 in 34 games, propelling Valmiera to the title. He’s just 21 years old and already captains Valmiera, who stormed the league this season en route to their first-ever title. While the entire team is stacked with young, promising players, Krollis certainly sticks out.
In this article I’ll dive into Krollis’ data to profile him as a player and offer some videos for support. Overall, Raimonds Krollis is a strong striker who can do it all; finish, create, drop deep to impact plays… A dangerous combination of skills for any opponent.
While much of his strengths will shine through this data, one of Krollis’s biggest assets—and one of the skills that easily translates to other leagues—is his movement and awareness of space. I’ll offer a short clip at the end of this article highlighting this skill, as well as pointing out the main data points impacted by quality movement.
Accolades So Far
Before we dive into the numbers, let’s look at what Krollis has accomplished in his nascent career.
Krollis made his Virsliga debut for Metta in 2019, debuting for Latvia’s U19 national team later that year. He scored 5 goals in 25 Virsliga appearances in 2019, then scored 11 in 24 matches in 2020, earning a senior national team cap in 2020 as well, at just 18 years old. He’s since made 23 total appearances and scored twice for his country. Krollis transferred to Valmiera ahead of the 2021 season, going on to score 12 in 25 matches before 24 in 34 this past season.
Raimonds has been named Latvia’s best young footballer for 3 years in a row, in 2020, 2021, and 2022. He also won the award for the Virsliga’s best striker in 2021 & 2022. He was then named the league’s MVP for 2022 on top of his golden boot. That’s 7 individual awards over 4 seasons.
Krollis, at just 21, really only has one last accolade to win in Latvian domestic football; the Latvian Cup. He’s won the league and every possible individual award (best player, best striker, best young player, top scorer…). He’s the hot commodity in Latvia, and with good reason. Transfermarkt has his market value at €2.50m, tied for the most valuable player in the Virsliga. Having won basically everything possible in Latvia, and being so young and with such potential, I would not doubt if we see him move abroad in the near future.
So, let’s get started.
First off, here’s his radar for 2022.
Krollis is one of the best strikers in the league in almost every key metric for strikers. He’s a great goal scorer (green bars) and can also create for his teammates (orange). But on top of that, he’s fairly good in his passing, particularly with long balls which we’ll see later (blue). He is about average in defense (purple) but is adept at carrying and progressing the ball up the pitch (red).
One of the reasons he’s able to get such high scores for ball progression metrics is that he likes to drop deep. He has that tendency to roam and drop to get on the ball before dribbling up the pitch or spraying a long ball down the flanks to an open winger or fullback.
Please see the appendix at the end of this article for a distribution chart with all these metrics, Krollis’ actual numbers, and his place on the league’s distribution for that metric.
Next, from a development standpoint, here’s his 2021 radar.
We see it’s very similar to 2022, but with some changes. Overall, Krollis improved his numbers vs other Virsliga strikers in all areas except the creation metrics. Instead of being the best striker in the league for creation, Krollis essentially became the second-best, behind Andrej Ilić in the xA (expected assists) department, but was certainly the most balanced striker in terms of creation in 2022.
Krollis improved his ranking in progression and passing, although ranked a little lower in 2022 for defense than 2021. Overall, his data shows us that he’s improving, but may be close to the level where he needs to move to a stronger league in order to explode his growth.
Overall, Krollis’ radar(s) give us a good view into not only his performances, but also his style as a player. In the Virsliga, he’s a great finisher, able to score with both feet (although much prefers his stronger left) and his head. He’s maybe not the best aerial finisher as he can often be beat in tight aerial contests, but his movement allows him to get open in the box where he can tap it home instead of having to contest in the air. The service I think he prefers is to his feet, not in the air.
Dropping Deep, Carrying, and Dribbling
Further, Krollis likes to drop deep. And he’s effective when he does. He can help bring the wingers into play and create space for them by luring a center back out of position—you can’t really leave Krollis unmarked! Raimonds is involved in the buildup plenty of goals he doesn’t score, either directly by playing passes, or indirectly with his movement.
Dropping deep also allows Raimonds to use his carrying ability. He’s strong enough to hold off defenders trying to win the ball off him on the dribble, and also has good enough ball control at speed to be able to pass by defenders. Here are two videos showing some of his carries after coming deep to act as an outlet for Valmiera.
You will notice that both of these runs end in possession-losing passes. While many runs end in a positive action, plenty can also end in unsuccessful ones. It’s an area Krollis will need to improve on going forward to be that much more effective for his team.
Here’s one more video showing his fairly good ability to dribble, instead of merely carrying. Here, in a match against Virsliga runners-up Riga FC, he drops deep to receive in midfield, turns, dribbles, carries the ball, and this time the pass makes its way to a teammate. A culmination of what we’ve seen he’s capable of via data.
Passing and Creation
Next, let’s look at his passing. For a striker, Krollis is fairly tidy. A lot of his passes are relatively risky, meaning that he tends to try more risky passes than some others. These are often not completed, but lead to very dangerous situations when they are. Naturally, this lowers his completion %.
In this graph we see his average short and medium completion, but his very high long pass completion. I have to note that some of his long passes are backwards to the center backs or defensive midfielder, but he does have a long pass to a winger or fullback in his locker as we see below.
This video also shows Krollis dropping deep to get on the ball before playing this pass. Again, he loves to drop deep and be involved in all phases of play.
This next graph shows us how, even when adjusting for Valmiera’s possession (about 55%, 4th-most in the league), Krollis is one of the players who most frequently creates shots and dangerous opportunities with his passes.
However, at this stage in his career Krollis is not get the most assists despite dropping deep and playing dangerous passes. He did record 4 this past season, though, and an xA of 4.34, which shows he earned those assists and shouldn’t have had many more. The aim of Krollis’ drops are not necessarily to provide assists, like a striker such as Harry Kane aims to do. Instead, he drops to facilitate the play before moving back into the box.
As we see in Krollis’s radar above, his xA per shot assist is about average. A lot the shots he creates can be from outside the box, which are naturally low xG. He creates lots of shots as we’ve seen, but a lot tend to be speculative shots. This, to me, is not an issue but merely part of Krollis’ style. As I’ve said before, he likes to be involved more in buildup with his passes. So, passing to players on the edge of the box and moving into a channel is more of his style than looking for that runner into the box (which is often him anyway!).
Goal Scoring Part 1: Shooting
Finally, we’ll move onto goal scoring, which I’ll split into two parts of shooting and movement. Krollis scored 24 goals in 34 matches, winning the league’s golden boot by 7 goals. He also won the best striker award at the end-of-season awards ceremony. There’s no doubt that he’s a good goal scorer. Krollis is relatively adept with both his right and left foot, but he is certainly more comfortable with his stronger left foot and can sometimes shoot with his left when the better shot would be with his right.
Krollis is decent in the air and can score headers, but that’s not necessarily one of his key strengths. He scored 4 header goals last season, tied for second behind Andrej Ilic with 8 headers, meaning about 17% of his goals came from headers. In 2021, one of his 12 goals came from a header, 8% of his total. While he did score more headers as a percentage of his goals in 2022 than 2021, it’s not his main threat.
Krollis is a good finisher overall, and a classic penalty box poacher. While not an out-and-out poacher, the majority of his goals are reminiscent of 22/23’s Erling Haaland at Manchester City. They are typically right in front of the goal, very central, and often come after some excellent movement to get into such a dangerous position seemingly unmarked. Here is a screenshot from Wyscout of his final 75 shots in the 2022 Virsliga (Wyscout restricts to 75 shots per image and he took 120…).
While he will take shots from anywhere in the box, all of his goals are central (using the 6-yard box as our “central” limit). And as we see from these last 75 shots, he has 20 shots on target from central positions in the box, and 14 goals. A further 17 shots in this area were off target. His on-target ratio for central shots in the box recently is 54%, and his conversion rate for those shots on target is a staggering 70%! Krollis is exceptionally dangerous when he gets into the center of the box, and when his shot tests the keeper he tends to score.
However, to really improve as a striker Krollis would need to work on his shooting from angles. While he is exceptional at using his movement to get a shot off centrally, he still takes shots from the right and left sides of the box and is relatively ineffective there.
When we look at all of Krollis’ shots from the prior three Virsliga seasons, though, we do see development. While he’s not terribly effective from the sides of inside the box, he has gotten much better at shooting and scoring overall as well as narrowed his shots to be more central. We can see his shots getting much more concentrated right in front of the goal over the years.
This trend, for a striker with quality movement like Raimonds who can get into these great central locations, is a huge positive. While he may not have scored many from angled positions inside the box, he got much better in 2022 at getting those shots on target, and also has improved at getting into the most dangerous central positions. What initially looked to be a negative is simply the development of this young, growing player.
From an xG standpoint, which is not the be all end all for analyzing shooting, nothing stands out as a blemish. He scored 24 goals from 24.75 xG this season, which is nice to see. If he was heavily over- or under-performing it should rightfully raise questions as to his ability to move leagues. Further, he has scored 48 goals from 47.69 xG since the start of 2019, which is remarkable. A striker improving their goal output but staying consistent with their xG is a positive. If he was over-performing, there might be questions of if he can keep that up next season, or in a new league. If he was under-performing, there might be questions of if he was too wasteful and therefore a transfer risk.
Performing in line with his xG for so long is an important thing to look for in a developing player. Consistency and constant improvement is vital, and Krollis demonstrates both of those traits.
Here are all of Krollis’ goals from this season.
Goal Scoring Part 2: Movement
As I’ve mentioned several times, Krollis’ biggest strength is his movement in and around the box. We can see the improvement and development of his movement even in his shot charts across his 4 Virsliga seasons. It’s not a coincidence that recently Krollis has been able to take more shots, more central shots, and also convert so many of them. While aided by some of the best creators in the league behind him, his increased output this season is due in large part to his movement and ability to recognize and get into the best positions for his teammates’ service.
Let’s see some videos to illustrate some aspects of his movement.
This first video mainly calls out his strong recognition of space and his decision-making when he’s presented with multiple options to move into.
When given the easy option of running on the side of the box, but unmarked, or running centrally and having to beat a man, Krollis chooses to trust his ability to use his movement to get open (and his teammate’s to make the pass) right in front of the goal, despite initially moving towards the defender.
He successfully beats this defender, and holds off another defender when he receives the ball, before taking a shot. This clip also shows his reliance on his left foot or his lack of confidence in his right. If he had continued to turn and take this shot with his right, it’s pretty much a sure goal. But taking the shot with his left means he’s shooting into a player, not into the net. This is an area to improve on for Raimonds.
This next clip shows his non-stop and fluid movement, constantly making small adjustments to his speed and positioning to deal with both the location of the ball and the defenders.
This clip culminates in his decision to stop his run in the middle of the box, hitting the brakes in open space and hoping for the cutback from his teammate. The opposition do well to snuff the ball out right before the pass can come. Krollis had the option to keep running towards the net, but understood a) that would close down his possible shooting angles, which he must know he’s not the best at yet, and b) there is more available space—and more dangerous space—right where he is. While the decision is in vain as his teammate can’t get the pass off, it shows not just his movement but his decision-making while in motion.
Overall, Krollis’ movement is one of the most important elements of his play. Not only does it help him score or occupy defenders’ minds, it also aids him when he drops deep. While being quick for his size, he’s not lightning fast, so his ability to move into the best positions when making runs from deep is important for keeping him a threat if the ball moves towards the box quickly after he drops. He’s not often caught out of position when the team are in a dangerous situation.
Below are his ratings in the Virsliga for two roles that perfectly suit his current skills and ability and his potential. The ranks are calculated from weighted percentile rankings of several key metrics for each role, with a max of 100 if a player had a percentile rank of 100 in all metrics (nearly impossible). Raimonds ranks best as a Deep-Lying Striker (which I think should be expected based on the data and videos we’ve seen), an incredible 92.6, over 12 points higher than Joselpho Barnes of Riga FC.
Deep-lying strikers naturally need to be able to score goals themselves, but also need to be able to get on the ball, move the ball up the pitch in some way, and be involved in the buildup of other goals they don’t score.
Krollis also scores very well as an Advanced Striker. These strikers are the most threatening attackers in the team, needing to be able to score goals, be efficient with their shots, and get into the box while still being able to beat opponents to create chances for themselves.
The Verdict: What’s his level and Potential?
While I personally love watching the Virsliga, it’s important to stay realistic. This is a league currently ranked 35th of 55 top-flight UEFA leagues. And it’s the youngest top-flight UEFA league and each season only seems to get younger. Even though this push towards young players hasn’t decreased the quality of the league, the fact remains that Krollis has put up all of these numbers in not only the 35th best UEFA league, but the youngest too.
I don’t say any of that to discredit the league, but merely to say that any team looking at Krollis will likely, and rightfully so, have some doubts as to whether he can adjust to their better-ranked and more experienced league. And for strikers who score 24 goals, 0.70 per game, there will always be the question of, “can they do it in a better league?” And that’s a fair question.
However, Raimonds Krollis’s biggest strengths aren’t necessarily the goals he scores. His movement, awareness of space, and his ball progression are what I would deem his biggest strengths. As I’ve noted and (hopefully) shown, his movement is often what’s allowing him to score so many of his goals.
Movement will transition to higher-quality leagues much better than pure goal scoring. Even with better defenders, Krollis should be able to get into many dangerous positions. I would expect his goal tally to come down if he moves leagues, but his movement should allow him to score 10+ goals in most leagues he’d move to, and if his ball-striking or shot decision-making improves, he could easily perform as a leading striker.
Further, his ability to progress the ball complements his movement in an interesting way. While his movement would allow him make an impact in high-possession teams, his carrying ability coupled with his tendency to drop deep would allow him to make an impact in low-possession teams. He could be an outlet for a team to quickly counter without playing long balls to a target man. As the videos earlier show, he is adept at picking the ball up in his own half and carrying it away from his defenders, into the final third, even if he has to turn and beat an onrushing opponent. This could allow him to be an outlet to release pressure in low-possession teams when they win the ball.
With all that said, I think Raimonds Krollis would be effective in many teams ranking around 10-25 in the UEFA rankings. Countries like the Nordics, Czechia, Turkey, Poland, Switzerland, and possibly even Belgium or Scotland. I think Norway, Sweden, or Denmark would be optimal for him, as they’re quality leagues with a great track record of developing young prospects and have lots of competitive teams, without the same gulf in quality as you may see in the top vs bottom of the Virsliga. Norway and Sweden have the benefit of playing the same Spring-to-Fall schedule as the Virsliga, however if Krollis stays at Valmiera in the coming months and continues to perform well, a move to Denmark might be the best fit. His strengths would align well with what I see in Denmark, and his decision-making in tight situations would be make-or-break and if he succeeds, the sky would be the limit.
Scotland and Belgium may be out of his current reach, but clubs there should still be taking note of Raimonds. Perhaps not the best clubs in the league, but clubs looking to break into Europe may be able to take the risk. Anderlecht might even be a destination with their revolving door of loaned strikers recently. Perhaps they could swing a loan with an option to buy if he performs well. Belgium is one of the biggest hot-beds for talent outside the big 5 leagues (with Portugal and the Netherlands), so that could be the dream move at this time.
These are a few options, but of course there are always going to be doubts when few players from the Virsliga move to such a level. Main top-flight destinations for Latvian players moving to notably better leagues than the Virsliga over the last decade have been Poland and Switzerland (5 players each), followed by Czechia (4 players). These are all leagues I think Krollis could move to and make an immediate impact, and might be more realistic than Denmark or Belgium. These leagues also have a decent track record of developing young players, so they would also make for nice fits.
The Ekstraklasa’s mid/upper-table is very competitive this season, with 4 points separating 9th and 3rd at the halfway mark of the season. The two teams tied on 25 points, 8th-place Cracovia & 9th-place Warta Poznań might be realistic options and a good fit. Both teams have about 45% possession, play in 3-4-3 shapes that could use a striker dropping into the midfield to help release pressure and support the two midfielders at times, and both have decent strikers but rank relatively low for number of goals scored (Benjamin Källman at Cracovia, 4 goals, and Adam Zreľák at Warta Poznań). Krollis could be a good addition tactically for both teams, not as an upgrade on Källman or Zreľák, but as a rotation option for the rest of the season. If he puts in good performances he could earn a starting spot for 23/24. Please see the appendix for some graphs and more info.
Outside of UEFA, most South Korean clubs and mid-table Japanese clubs might also be a viable option, but that might be more difficult given the strict foreign player quotas, relatively less money spent on transfers, and possible difficulty of proving himself to some of the better UEFA leagues that may question those countries’ league strength.
A final set of options might be second divisions of top nations such as Spain, Germany, or Italy. These leagues would still be a step up from the Virsliga and provide ample opportunity to be seen by the best clubs, and possibly even earn promotion to one of the world’s best leagues. While top-division football is great, quality second tiers could provide an amazing opportunity for such a promising player.
Finally, what’s Krollis’ ceiling? In my opinion, it’s difficult to see him in the world’s top clubs. However, I think that if he makes a move in the near future to a strong league where he will be able to develop, and forced to develop to succeed, he could well make it at a Europe-chasing side in Germany, Spain, France, or Italy. If not there, he could become one of the top strikers just outside the big 5 leagues at clubs like Celtic or Rangers, Club Brugge or Genk, one of the Dutch Big 3, FC Copenhagen and the like.
With consistent minutes in a quality league and constant work to improve, I think he can be a great striker for a club regularly in the group stages of European competitions.
Raimonds Krollis is valued at €2.50m by Transfermarkt, which could mean he’ll cost between €2m and €3m. That might put him out of the price range of some clubs, but he could be a risk worth taking for a club needing a striker who is great off the ball and can impact play in a variety of ways. As noted before, Krollis is very good at scoring the number of goals he’s “supposed to”, so a club that can provide him with decent service might be able to ensure his goal output stays high.
The Final Word
Raimonds Krollis is a very promising young Latvian striker who has already won just about everything he could win in Latvia. On top of a dominant 2022 season, he has shown consistent improvement over the years and at 21 is the best player in his home country. While he is good at scoring goals, his greatest strength is his movement. He has a tendency to drop deep to get on the ball before carrying it up the pitch while ensuring he’s not caught out of position later in the attack.
Clubs in better leagues will be right to question if he’s able to make the jump up. But his best skills should transition well to better leagues, and he has shown over several seasons that he can and will put the work in to improve with each passing month. He wouldn’t be the league-winning captain, top scorer, best player, and a university student at the same time if he wasn’t able to put in the work necessary to perform at his highest level.
Time will tell if Raimonds makes the move abroad and how high he’ll go, but I certainly think he’s got the potential to play in the group stages of European competitions regularly and win titles in some of the most prestigious countries.
Raimonds is putting in the work; it’s a question of if a club sees his potential outweighing any risk.
Below are Zreľák and Källman’s radars. Both players have a similar style to Krollis’ radars in the Virsliga which means Krollis, even if he takes a little bit of time to adjust and improve initially, could be a good fit for the current style of both clubs.
These tables below show us the top 10 deep-lying and advanced strikers in the Ekstraklasa this season. Zreľák and Källman both make the top 10, showing us two things. First, that Krollis would be a good fit for these teams, as his performances and ability line up with how the teams play right now. Second, it shows us that Krollis probably wouldn’t be able to start right away, since I’m unsure if he could move to the Ekstraklasa today and immediately be a top 10 striker in his role. I would love to be wrong about that though.
Krollis could be a strong rotation option for these teams, however, and potentially offer a different dimension to the attack with his carrying. Both Zreľák and Källman rank poorly for dribble success, something that Krollis can offer. Krollis’ success rate of 57% is a bit higher than Källman’s 48% or Zreľák’s 35%. Warta Poznań might be the better of the two clubs as they have more possession but find it more difficult to get into the final third. Krollis’ ability to drop deep and carry the ball into the final third could help them create more chances.