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Mert Conker brings you the next edition of this series and talks about the best U-22 players to watch out for in the Turkish Super League this season.
Ozan was born in Bursa, Turkey on 23rd March, 1995. He played a number of tournaments with his school team and was discovered by Bursaspor’s academy scouts at the age of 9. Afterwards, he joined the youth ranks of Bursaspor and played at all levels through to the first team. His big move was to Fenerbahçe. Although, he hasn’t yet met expectations he is still one of the biggest prospects of Turkish football. Recently he’s become bit overweight and needs to lose couple of kilograms in order to play to his full potential.
Ozan’s versatility is his biggest advantage in Fenerbahçe’s midfield rotation. He can play as a defensive midfielder, a box-to-box midfielder and as a right back. His technical attributes are well advanced. Thus, the Turkish international has plenty to offer in terms of potential.
The 22 year old defender is currently playing for Gençlerbirliği, the club that sold Geremi to Madrid more than a decade ago for huge profit. The central defender has plenty to offer with his height and defensive qualities but hasn’t been able to showcase those attributes yet. He was a part of Turkey’s Euro 2016 squad but despite being a regular player at all age groups, he was mainly a back up to Mehmet Topal and Hakan Balta. Both players are not originally central defenders but he still couldn’t steal a spot in the team.
He is effective in the air and good at one on one marking but on the other hand he can’t handle through balls. He does have problems when it comes to acceleration but is decent in terms of strength, stamina and pace. A relatively experienced player who still hasn’t proved himself in Turkish Super League.
Galatasaray signed the Portugal starlet for £11m back in 2013. He had an amazing debut against Çaykur Rizespor but afterwards he couldn’t live up to his perfect debut. As a result, he was loaned to Real Sociedad and got enough playing time before going back to Cimbom. He suffered a knee injury in his debut season and it was one of the main reasons for his failure to showcase talents.
Portuguese winger is mainly known for his explosive pace. He runs with the ball very effectively and when he cuts inside from the left he is a big threat for any side in European football but Galatasaray won’t be in Europe, so they don’t have to worry about it for now. When it comes to decision making and finishing his knees knock together and these two are simply his main weaknesses. In last two seasons, he has made little improvement in the technical department, which is a big question mark on his future.
We have another Gençlerbirliği starlet on the list. He joined the capital city team in the summer transfer window and he was highly rated in Serbia. Last season he shone as an attacking midfielder and winger in the SuperLiga. A 21 year old prospect, he joined Gençler just for 200k and has a great chance to showcase his pace, acceleration and creativity here in Turkey.
I can’t make a neat decision about whether he can comply with physical game in Turkey. He is small and has winadequate strength and stamina to cope with Turkish Super League. On the other hand, he has well developed technical attributes and his tactical knowledge can help him to score goals and create chances. As long as he scores and assists, he will play major role for Gençlerbirliği in coming season.
Sinan is a Galatasaray player who will have his first season as a first team player with the most successful club in Turkish history. His main position is right winger but he can play as striker or left winger if needed. He is 22 years old, currently in good shape and can have a decent season. Sinan joined GS from Stuttgart after his contract expired in 2014 and signed a five year contract. He spent a long time playing for Gala U-21 and earned his chance in the first team.
He mainly cuts inside from the right and has decent finishing, pace, acceleration and balance. He is a good combination of a technical and physical player. As far as I know, he can get injured quite easily and it’s his main weakness. He also needs to improve in possession and off the ball departments. I guess that despite playing as winger, if he can avoid injuries he can score between 8 – 12 goals in coming season.
Salih Uçan is one of the most promising midfielders in Turkish football. The 22 year old Fenerbahçe midfielder went to Italy to play for Rome but his time in Italy wasn’t the most prolific in terms of playing time. Although he learned a lot in Rome, he failed to get enough playing time in his position. Regular injuries affected his progress too. He is back now and will be one of the key players of his team. European football will definitely help him to improve.
His passing range and fast thinking ability are definitely key to his playing style. The lad is very smart both on and off the pitch. First touch, pass, ball control are well advanced. He has some issues with his stamina and strength but nothing that he cant overcome. Salih can change the direction of the game with one direct pass. We have seen it and will see in this new season that he can change the tempo and direction of the game very quickly.
Cengiz is the newest product of the one of the best football academy’s in Turkey. Altınordu have been producing talented players for years now and 19 year old Ünder is definitey one of them. He has played 31 games, scored 6 and provided 4 assists in the 2014-15 season with Altınordu. Moving to the first division with Başakşehir is a huge step for his career.
Let’s talk about his strengths and weaknesses. Kid has the vision. He’s a good finisher. You can sense that he can smell the goal and inside the box, he is a real killer. The starlet needs to improve his reactions to crosses from both wings. His forward runs also should be better. If he can add these to his arsenal, he can become a deadly striker inside the box.
Last season, the 21 year old Gençlerbirliği starlet improved immensely. He’s been part of all the age groups of the Turkish national team and with his immense talent he is up there in the reckoning to become a regular national team player for Turkey.
Gençlerbirliği president İlhan Cavcav is known as a haggler in Turkish football and won’t be willing to sell him to Fenerbahçe, Beşiktaş or Galatasaray for less than an Ozan Tufan-like fee, which is something around €7m. The midfielder is a great free kick taker, good with the ball and open to improvement with huge potential. I think he can become a great player at Eredivise or Spain but the financial expectations of Gençlerbirliği could put the brakes on a possible transfer.
Aminu Umar / Osmanlispor / 21 / Striker
One of the most promising foreign players in Turkish league. The 21 year old winger/striker first joined the second tier team Samsunspor in 2013 and established himself as preferred striker in his first season at the age of 18! The Nigerian international played 16 times for his country’s U20 side and managed to score 6 goals. He made a name for himself in Turkey with his pace and persistence. Although he didn’t score enough goals, the Nigerian can wear out the opponents’ defence with his physical qualities to provide space for his teammates.
Osmanlispor’s starlet is one of the main components of the team with last season’s tally standing at 8 goals and 5 asissts in 28 league games. However, his influence on the games was much more than his stats indicate. Aminu is a huge Arsenal fan and willing to play for Arsene Wenger in the future With the potential he has, it is not an unthinkable move. His physical side shines out when you want to explain his strengths. Although, I cannot point it out as a weaknesses, there is a still room for improvement in the technical department. Overa;;, he’s fast, likes to dribble with or without the ball but not a top level finisher.
Konyaspor signed this centre forward from Zeljeznecar for €500k. Last season, he scored 5 goals and provided 5 assists but I truly believe that he can do much better. He can play as the main striker or secondary striker to create spaces for his teammates. He was good at it last season. On the other hand, the 22 year old striker has a solid left food, strong shooting ability, decent finishing inside the box and makes decent forward runs which create good spaces for wingers and others.
Read about other young players to watch here.