It’s been two months since Nuri Sahin made it to the Santiago Bernabeu. While the football fraternity has called his signing at 10 million euros, steal of the decade, many of the Real Madrid faithful, though excited with his signing, have expressed their reservations about adding another midfielder when the Men in White have already a plethora of options at their disposal. His injury in the pre-season so far has not helped matters as he has not played any role on the pitch. So, Madridistas are still unsure of how he would slot into the team and how Mourinho will use him effectively.
Nuri Sahin was born in Germany and has progressed through the youth ranks at Borussia Dortmund to make it big for their senior side. Inspite of being born in Germany, Sahin opted to represent Turkey at the international level and ended up representing Turkey’s U16, U17, U19, U21 levels before making his debut with the national team and therefore becoming the youngest player to represent the Turkish side. He also scored his first international goal, incidentally against his country of birth, Germany, in 2005 thus becoming the youngest player to score for Turkey.
His brilliant performances in the 2005 UEFA European Under-17 Championship with Turkey, which won the cup, led to his debut in the Bundesliga in August 2005 with Borussia Dortmund , under Bert van Marwijk at the age of just 16, thus achieving the record of being the youngest player to play and score in the Bundesliga, when he scored against 1. FC Nuremberg in November 2005. He ended that season with an impressive six assists. He also won the bronze ball and silver shoe in the FIFA U-17 World Championship.
The next year, he failed to impress further and was loaned out to Feyenoord with the club’s Director of Sport Michael Zorc stressing that the only reason for loaning the young midfielder was for him to gain regular match practice. “We are convinced that a great future lies ahead for Nuri and that future will be with BVB“, Zorc had said. At Feyenoord, Nuri finally started to fulfill his potential as he guided them to the Dutch Cup (equivalent to England’s FA cup) and ended with six goals and five assists.
Nuri’s return to Borussia coincided with the appointment of Jurgen Klopp and Sahin proved to be central to Klopp’s plans as he ended the season with two goals and seven assists. His influence on the team was increasing and his assists were growing. The 2009-10 season can be called his stepping stone to success as he amassed six goals and nine assists and led Dortmund to the Europa League. The next year could be termed as the realization of dreams and potential at Borussia Dortmund. Jurgen Klopp, the master tactician finally won the Bundesliga, Borussia walked away with the title convincingly with a very young team and Nuri Sahin won the Bundesliga player of the year award with six goals and 13 invaluable assists.
Real Madrid came calling and Sahin, citing the desire to play at the best club and with the best coach in the world, moved onto whiter pastures. His farewell match with Borussia was an emotional affair as their youth prodigy finally bid farewell to his club with tears in his eyes.
People who saw him play at BVB would swear by his ability to dictate the tempo of the match with great vision. Playing as a deep lying playmaker in a 4-2-3-1 or some times as a box-to-box central midfielder, Nuri Sahin is a complete midfield package. His role at Borussia was similar to that of Xabi Alonso at Real Madrid and his play is also very similar to the Spaniard. He is skillful with the ball, incisive with his passes and has the ability to pick players with spaces and also can play the killer final ball.
He can also press and tackle well and his dead ball skills are excellent. He was the primary Free-Kick specialist for BVB and has a strong left foot and a very good long range shot. He is very young and robust and has a good build and because he started very early, he has invaluable experience for a 22 year old at the highest level. Guus hiddink, the Turkey coach, also proclaimed that Sahin is a player of extraordinary quality.
Sahin is one footed and has the tendency of using his right foot, his weaker foot, rarely. He is also charged with being weak in the air but a player of his caliber should actually be creating headers for his team mates rather than taking headers. He is also accused of being temperamental at times. Other than that, he does not have any specific weakness. That explains his Bundesliga Player of the Year award.
Possible Impact at Real Madrid
The signing of Nuri Sahin signals Jose Mourinho’s intentions to play a 4-3-3, the same system he played at Porto and Chelsea. But playing such a system would mean playing without a proper playmaker and it would hinder the brilliance of Ozil and Kaka. And if Mourinho plays a 4-2-3-1, it would mean Sahin could be benched as he would be very similar to Alonso with Khedira providing the muscle to cover Alonso. Jose Mourinho might not want to change his 4-2-3-1 approach and this could mean less playing time for Sahin. In this case, his signing would be a luxury.
But there is also the possibility of Alonso and Sahin playing together in the central midfield with Khedira on the bench as this would mean two creative outlets from the deep and more possession and movement of the ball. Teams in La Liga are hardly physical and Real Madrid might not regularly need the services of Khedira. But in El Clasicos, Mourinho will use a 4-3-3, with Sahin as box-to-box midfielder and with Pepe/Khedira as the ball winner. This would mean that unlike last year, where Madrid had to depend solely on Alonso to provide the creativity, they would have two creative outlets with ball retention abilities and hence more chances created, with Sahin also capable of good finishes and good off the ball movements. It would give them more bite and creative competition to Xavi and Busquets in the midfield.
Nuri Sahin is undoubtedly one of the finest players in world football today. And his transfer price is peanuts for a player of his caliber, literally. Nuri will find it easy to settle in Spain because he would have his best friend, Ozil, for company and also Khedira and Hamit Altintop to make him feel better. His efficiency with the ball is noteworthy and his work ethic is unquestionable. Most importantly, his intelligence with the ball at his feet was his biggest strength at Borussia Dortmund. He is no party animal and a quiet character off the field with no disciplinary issues. He is a perfect cover for Alonso but can and should play beside him. It would be a pity if he was merely bought as a cover for the Spanish midfield maestro.
Rating – 8/10