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Emre Can – Turning his blues to Black and Yellow

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Written by Adibir Singh


Many fans around Europe seem to have forgotten the name ‘Emre Can’ in the last few seasons.

From being one of the top upcoming talents in Germany to becoming a fringe player amongst a star-studded Juventus side- Can’s decline since leaving Liverpool in the summer of 2018 has been tumultuous, to say the least.

The German international got his first big break on the cards of Bayern Munich, coming up from their academy to the first team in the 2012-13 season. Despite playing only a handful of games, the sky seemed the limit for Can- who picked up a Champions League winners’ medal in his first professional season, as well as the German League and Cup titles to make for an impressive treble, albeit as a fringe player for the Bavarians. 

But it wasn’t meant to be for the Turkish-born star. Bayern’s coaches couldn’t see him competing with the likes of Schweinsteiger, Luiz Gustavo and Javi Martinez for a midfield place, and he was offloaded to fellow Bundesliga rivals Bayer Leverkusen in the 2013 window for £6 million. 

This was Can’s first big move to a club where he could establish himself and cement a first-team place- and he didn’t disappoint- 39 first-team games for Leverkusen meant the talent of the young German could be seen and appreciated all around- with the German media even dubbing him “the next Michael Ballack”

His role as a central defensive midfielder grabbed the eyes of many around Europe- and earned him an even bigger move to Premier League side Liverpool- after just one season with the Germans. 

Brendan Rodgers prized Can away for a mere £9.75million, which raised a lot of eyebrows considering how many clubs were vying for his signature. Rodgers gave Can a lot of game time and the opportunity wasn’t wasted by him, being an ever-present figure despite being only 21 at the time. Fellow German Jürgen Klopp took over the reins in October 2015, and Can had to prove his mettle again- and did so with aplomb. 

Under Jürgen Klopp, Can’s prowess really came to the fore- despite being rotated often, the midfielder’s all-round game was taken up a notch and he thrived under the famous gegenpressing system adopted by the new Liverpool manager. 

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 24: Emre Can of Liverpool celebrates scoring his side’s first goal during the Premier League match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield on February 24, 2018, in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

‘Box-to-box’, ‘midfield powerhouse’ and a ‘pressing machine’ were just some of the fantastic qualities on display by Can at Liverpool. He was instrumental in the run to the 2018 Champions league final- scoring 3 goals, but more importantly, being the legs in the middle of the park and tirelessly running up and down the pitch to support attack and defence. 

Despite many at Anfield wanting the player to sign a new contract after his performances, Can forced his hand- and a move to the Italian giants in Juventus came forth. Liverpool were disappointed to lose the German, that too on a Bosman transfer- but Can couldn’t have asked for a better dream move to the 35-time Scudetto winners. 

But what seemed like a dream- ultimately has turned out to be too good to be true. Since his move to the Turin side, Can has seen his form and game time both plummet. His first season allowed critics to give him the benefit of the doubt in order for him to adjust to the Italian game. 

Glimpses of why Juventus signed Emre Can showed sparingly, but consistency never prevailed for the player. Can capped his season by winning the league and cup double- which is precisely what he came to Turin to do- win silverware. 

TURIN, ITALY – APRIL 06: Emre Can (L) of Juventus and Tiemoue Bakayoko of Milan compete for the ball during the Serie A match between Juventus and AC Milan on April 06, 2019, in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images)

But the worst was in store for Can at the start of the 19/20 season- Maurizio Sarri announcing that Can along with Mandzukic would not be a part of the Champions League squad. A huge blow to the 26-year old’s first-team hopes.

Appearances had been few and far between this season, only 8 games played with little sign of showing the management the player he can potentially become. Patience ran out quickly with Can, and given the massive squad depth at Juventus- especially in the midfield department- Sarri chose to move him onto Dortmund last month.

Lucien Favre’s side have secured the services of Can on a loan with the obligation to buy at the end of the season- and Emre could be another key piece to a constantly puzzling jigsaw at Dortmund. 

Favre’s side came within a point of the league last season, and have strengthened their squad over the summer to try and go the distance- adding the likes of Julian Brandt, Thorgan Hazard and Nico Schulz to the mix. 

Julian Weigl’s departure in January meant cover was needed in midfield. Weigl’s transfer means one less spot for Can to compete for- and more game time to prove his worth to the BVB faithful.

He made his debut in the 4-3 defeat to former side Leverkusen on the weekend- scoring a sublime goal and dictating the tempo from the middle. A great start to set the tone for his arrival, and relieve the weight of the world on his shoulders. 

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LEVERKUSEN, GERMANY – FEBRUARY 08: Emre Can of Borussia Dortmund scores his team’s second goal during the Bundesliga match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund at BayArena on February 08, 2020, in Leverkusen, Germany. (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Can’s role for Dortmund seems very straightforward. Dortmund often switching between a 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 formation allows Can to always hold the position of the two deeper lying midfielders, alongside Belgian stalwart Axel Witsel.

Witsel is a preferred number 6, who likes to sit deep and clean up attacks just ahead of the two centre-backs. This allows Can to utilise the space around him more efficiently. Having to worry less about defensive responsibility- Emre Can has the freedom to bomb up the pitch and support the attackers in Reus, Brandt, and Sancho, as well as pull the strings from the centre of the park.

From his engine-like running to his rigorous drive, Can’s full range of qualities are ready to be displayed- and with Witsel to complement Can it can work perfectly to get the most out of the German. The Black and Yellow fans can be certain this is a duo that whets their appetite every week.

He has a point to prove to a lot of people, and Dortmund could be the perfect stage for him to finally settle into a system and establish a ferocious midfield partnership- something he failed to do at Juventus with star names like Pjanic and Khedira surrounding him.

His former boss Jürgen Klopp was quoted saying that “Emre has found a club that suits him perfectly.” Music to the ears of current boss Favre, who will hope Can can be instrumental in getting Dortmund over the line and lifting the ‘Meisterschale’ in one of the tightest Bundesliga title races in recent memory. 


 

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