The best way to describe Emre Can is ‘tank’. Since signing for Liverpool FC from Bayer Leverkusen in 2014, Can has shown a lot of promise. While he has a lot of attributes in his game, he must focus on one of them to become world class.
Can was signed by Liverpool FC manager Brendan Rodgers after impressing for Bayer Leverkusen in the German Bundesliga. The Frankfurt-born player of Turkish origin – one among many in German league – helped Leverkusen finish fourth in 2013-14 before Liverpool snapped him up.
Leverkusen had signed Can from Bayern Munich just a season before he joined Liverpool FC for A?10m.
One of the primary reasons Liverpool FC manager Brendan Rodgers invested in the Germany youngster is his versatility. Can is a man of many talents, but that could become his undoing if he fails to develop one of those attributes to a top level.
Can is a regular for the German U-21 national team, for whom he has been deployed as a centre-back regularly. The Liverpool man also played as a left-back for Bayern Leverkusen and was seen in a right-back role as well as at centre-back at Anfield.
However, his preferred position is central midfield, where the player thinks he can blossom, and manager Brendan Rodgers and the staff at Anfield also look at him as the future holding midfielder for Liverpool FC.
Despite that belief, Can was deployed in a more advanced role in midfield against Arsenal FC on Monday. It was a familiar tale for Can. The player did not know, at times, what to do – just as he was clueless when Stoke mauled Liverpool 6-1 on the final day of the Premier League 2014-15 with Can ripped apart at right-back.
Can, much like Jordan Henderson and James Milner, has a lot of attributes to a decent level. He can pass decently, has good dribbling ability that is enhanced by his power – probably his best trait. His big physique enables him to win balls in midfield despite not having the best tackling technique one would find on the pitch. He also has a decent shot on him, and without being too extravagant, can create decently. At just 21 years of age, there is plenty of time for him to develop one aspect.
However, it is important that he does so. That is the difference between – with all due respect – a Jordan Henderson, James Milner and a Steven Gerrard, Daniele De Rossi or a Yaya Toure.
Make no mistake, Henderson and Milner, in their own right, are good players. However, Steven Gerrard, Yaya Toure and Daniele de Rossi are world class.
The difference is while Henderson and Milner are good at a lot of things, they do not have one special trait. Gerrard had a tremendous passing range, a stunning shot that allowed him to score often, and a super ability to pick out first time passes by sending forwards through. Just ask Michael Owen, Fernando Torres, Luis Suarez, and Daniel Sturridge.
De Rossi had the combative ability to single-handedly dominate the midfield. He also had a shot to destroy the net.
Yaya Toure was a late bloomer and one who is a prime example of how a versatile player with many skill becomes world class after having mastered one.
Toure started out as a defensive midfielder, only to become one of the most feared box-to-box midfielder of the modern Premier League era. Toure’s physicality held him in good stead when going forward and battling defensive midfielders. But that is not all. Toure developed an incredibly accurate and powerful shot that got him goals. His ability to dribble the ball at pace and to hold off attackers ensured Manchester City forwards were never short of supply.
Can must take a leaf out of each of these players’s books – Toure in particular – and develop in one role. Once he has settled in that one role, he can develop the key attributes for that position and ensure he turns into a world class performer at Liverpool FC.