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The German Bundesliga boasts a vast pool of exceptional young talent, many of whom have their origins in Turkey. Hamburg’s Hakan Calhanoglu is one such young talent making a name for himself in Germany’s top division.
Hakan was born in in Mannheim, a city close to the Hessen and Baden-Württemburg regions border. Both his father and uncle were ex-footballers and they’ve had a massive role to play in Hakan’s young career. Hakan started to play football at the age of 4 at Polizei SV; five years later he moved to Polizei and Turanspor Mannheim, before joining SV Waldhof Mannheim. He spent 6 successful years at Waldhof before taking a huge step in his career, he was 15 when he joined Karlsruhe’s youth ranks. His dream was to become a professional but at the same time he wanted to continue his education, thus he joined Karlsruhe, where he had a chance to continue his education at boarding school for two years while also staying close to his family as Karlsruhe neighbours his hometown.
Stephan Gros (Hakan’s youth coach at Waldhof) had an immense influence on his improvement. He has been extremely important for him and a great guide, both as a person and player.
Hakan made his professional debut for Karlsruhe when he was 17 against FC Erzgebirge Aue, two assists on his debut was a great way to introduce himself. In that season, he had a chance to showcase his talents in 14 appearances, providing 3 assists but it wasn’t enough to keep the team in the 2.Bundesliga. At the end of the season, Hamburg bought him from Karlsruhe and immediately loaned him back to Karlsruhe for one season. In 2012 – 2013 season, his performance was flawless, he played 54 games and scored 20 goals and provided 16 assists, helping his team to gain promotion after just one year of tasting relegation. His commendable performance provide him an opportunity at the highest level in Germany. This season up until now, he has played 4 Bundesliga games and scored twice against Braunschweig.
Hakan’s national team story is quite bizarre. He had been called up by German youth national teams when he was just a high school student, but the principal of the school didn’t let him join the team because he hadn’t participated in his lessons regularly and he needed to attend the lessons and exams. Couple of months later, Turkish FA invited him to join Turkish national team and he started to play for the age groups of Turkey. Up until now, he has 42 matches for age groups of Turkey and managed to score 8 goals. Recently he has been called up to the Turkish national team by Fatih Terim and made his debut in a 5-0 against Andorra; he was on the bench against Romania. He’ll be a key figure for the national team in coming tournaments. There is a slight chance for Turkey to go to Brazil and play at World Cup but he is definitely going to have a massive role to play in 2016 European Championship qualifications.
Hakan Calhanoglu featured in our list of 100 Best Young Players to Watch-out for in 2014. He was at #16 in our list of midfielders. See the entire list here. The Turk followed that up with the #1 spot in the midfielders category in the 2015 version of the list and was also voted as the Youngster of the Season by Outside of the Boot’s readers at the 2014-15 End of Season awards.
Great passer, good ball control, and a flawless first touch, Hakan Calhanoglu is the perfect man to sit behind the striker. He is extremely lithe in tight areas, and manages to find a pass even if he is under pressure from an opponent. Dominant on the pitch, he likes to control the game utilising his technical attributes. As far as I’ve observed about him, he has a good influence on the rhythm of the game. Flawless free-kick taker, he has also scored some magnificent goals from outside of the box (most recently against Braunschweig).
His vision is key for his performance. He manages to combine his technical attributes with his vision which helps him to find the right man and open up defences with almost every through ball. This season he played 180 minutes in 4 games and created a chance in every 45 minutes (at the time of writing).
Hakan Calhanoglu is a marvellous player to watch. Playing in the second and third Bundesliga divisions improved his confidence, both mentally and physcially. He gained confidence before make a huge jump to the Bundesliga and started to showcase his talents.
His main weaknesses convene in the physical department. He is a fairly tiny player, and struggles to stand after he takes a hit. Up until now, he has been second best in headed duels with 71% ratio of unsuccessful head duels. Acceleration and speed are something he can improve on as well.
He doesn’t make enough forward runs. Although he is already a goal scoring midfielder, he could easily score more goals and provide more assists by making more forward runs. He commonly likes to perambulate behind the strikers and tries to provide through balls, crosses or more spaces for central midfielders. It’s his game style but if he can manage to add more forward runs to his style then he can become a more complete player and it would be exceedingly hard to control him on the pitch.
Hakan’s defensive contribution could be better like almost every other attacking minded player. He conducts pressing efficiently and gives more time to his teammates to gather and retain their defensive position, but he needs to double up the length of pressing time to be more benefical to the team.
Hamburg’s captain, Rafael Van Der Vaart, who made his name in a similar position, is a great player and he can be a great role model for 19 year old Hakan. He has a chance to learn from him before he steals his position. Hakan is at the early stages of his long career and Rafael’s existence at the club, could be an immense influence on his game. He needs to find a way to benefit from his game and experience both as a player and person.
“The self-confidence and cheekiness I have seen from Hakan so far tells me that he has no intention of being built up slowly here. He’s already got itchy feet. We’re certainly not going to overdo things with him, but I’m really excited about seeing these young, wild players who are desperate to be successful.”
— Thorsten Fink, ex-Hamburg manager, quoted by Bundesliga.com
Having just joined Hamburg, Hakan Calhanoglu is unlikely to be seeking a move any time soon. However, given the attention he is receiving from the football fraternity, and the comparisons being made to a certain Mesut Ozil, he will never be shy of the limelight. Expect his name to be mentioned in the rumour mills time and again.
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