Player Focus: Emre Can (Bayer Leverkusen)

Emre Can

  • Position: Central-midfield, left-back;
  • Born: Frankfurt, Germany, January 1994 (age 20);
  • Club: Bayer Leverkusen (2013-present);
  • Former: Bayern Munich (2012-13), Bayern Munich II (2011-12);
  • International: Germany U21 (6 caps)
  • 2013-14 Bundesliga Statistics: 24(5) games, 3 goals, 3 assists;
  • Estimated Value: £12m

Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Emre Can is widely anticipated to be Liverpool’s next summer signing, having reportedly been on the Reds’ radar during 2013-14 and the subject of much speculation during recent weeks – Liverpool confirmed that a deal had been agreed, in principle, on Thursday morning.  The twenty year-old German, with Turkish ancestry, favours a central midfield role but is also comfortable at left-back – he has played in both roles for die Werkself since joining from Bayern Munich last summer.  Can has yet to receive a senior international cap but, Frankfurt-born, has been involved in the German youth-setup for many years and is almost certain to pledge his long-term allegience to the country in which he was born and raised.  A deep-lying central-midfielder has been a priority of Brendan Rodgers’ since he tweaked the Liverpool midfield in January, and Can’s combative and energetic style are considered well-worth the £9.75m release clause that Liverpool are thought to have finally triggered this week.

Local clubs SV Blau-Gelb Frankfurt and Eintracht Frankfurt gave Emre Can his footballing tutelage before he made the move from Hessen to Bavaria in 2009, when Bayern Munich came calling.  After earning his stripes in the youth ranks, Can made 31 appearances, scoring three times, as a key player for Bayern Munich II in Regionalliga Süd and Regionalliga Bayern (4th tier German football) between 2011-2013.  He made his senior debut for Bayern at left-back in the German Supercup victory over Bundesliga Champions Borussia Dortmund in August 2012, and made two further starts (in the Cup) during subsequent months.  Bayern wrapped up the Bundesliga title with six games to spare during 2012-13 and Can was awarded a run of four successive late-season league appearances, of which he started twice – playing ninety minutes against Nuremberg and scoring in a 1-0 victory over Freiburg.  During the title-winning campaign, Bayern manager Jupp Heynckes had tended to utilise Javi Martinez, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos, Luis Gustavo, and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk in his midfield – whilst his replacement, Pep Guardiola, allowed the latter pair to leave, he brought in Thiago Alcantara from Barcelona, potentially limiting Can’s opportunities ahead of 2013-14.

Bayer Leverkusen bid £4m for Emre Can during the summer and duly secured the services of the promising and versatile midfielder – though not without Bayern Munich negotiating a buy-back option on the player considered something of a protégé at Säbener Strasse.  Bayern chairman, Karl-Heinze Rummenigge declared Can “one of the biggest talents in German football” upon securing the €5.5m buy-back agreement.  After a gradual introduction at Leverkusen, manager Sami Hyypia awarded Can his first league start in early-October as he played from an advanced position on the left against Bayern.  Can became an important member of die Werkself, with Hyypia exploiting his versaility throughout a season win which they aspired to retain their Champions League status.  Unfortunately, a poor run of spring form saw former-Red Hyypia dismissed and his former joint-Manager, Sascha Lewandowski, was re-appointed for the final five matches.  Leverkusen went unbeaten for the remainder and secured a top-four finish and Champions League qualification with Can performing admirably – contributing an assist, a goal, and man of the match performances alongside Lars Bender in the heart of the midfield.  Can ended the season having made 36 appearances in the Bundesliga and Champions League, scoring three and providing three assists.

Emre Can has represented Germany internationally since appearing for the Under-15s in 2009 and is an established member of die Mannschaft’s junior ranks, having made 42 appearances.  Along with Liverpool’s Samed Yesil, he was a key figure as Germany finished runners-up to the Netherlands in the 2011 European U17 Championship and reached the Semi Final (in which he scored Germany’s second in a 3-2 defeat to Mexico) of the U17 World Cup of the same year.  Then German-U17 Manager, Steffen Freund spoke highly of Can: “Emre is the most complete under-17 player I have seen in my entire career, and I have seen many.  He has what it takes to make it to the top”.  More recently, Can has figured as a central midfielder for the U21s – his contemporaries include Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Matthias Ginter, Erik Durm, and Kevin Volland.  His style has drawn comparisons with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Michael Ballack which, also considering Ilkay Gundogan, Leon Goretzka, and Toni Kroos, suggests that the German midfield has a strong future.

Brendan Rodgers made a very clear adjustment to his Liverpool side for the visit of Aston Villa in January, deploying Steven Gerrard alone in a deep-lying midfield role where he played for the remainder of the season.  Supporters are aware that their thirty-four year-old Captain will benefit from not having to be depended upon for each of their minimum 46-games next season and that injury-stricken Lucas Leiva doesn’t appear quite suited to the lone deep-role in Rodgers’ team – an acquisition is thus desired.  Javier Mascherano never fails to be mentioned when such a scenario crops up, but Rodgers seems keen on a more rounded player and Emre Can appears to fit the bill.  Liverpools announcement on Thursday morning follows last week’s confirmation that forward Rickie Lambert has signed from Southampton.  At a reported £9.75m, Emre Can is a versatile and energetic young player who is both combative and dynamic – supporters will look forward to seeing the German in red next season and hope that Liverpool have secured a mainstay of their midfield for many years to come.


Originally published at:

© Jack Harte, The Redmen TV, 2014


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