Leaping into the air like a flailing salmon, Emre Can defied physics at Vicarage Road to score one of the finest goals the Premier League has seen.
That was just over two years ago.
What has transpired since then is one of Germany’s emerging midfield talents melting away into Turin anonymity ever since making what, on the surface, appeared to be a dream move to Juventus.
It’s often said that hindsight is a wonderful thing. That given the opportunity to look back on the way events panned out, decisions might have been made with poor timing or, simply, a lack of thinking.
Few could blame the German for jumping at an opportunity to join one of Europe’s biggest football clubs, however. Some rumblings were blatantly going on behind the scenes throughout his final year with Liverpool, as his refusal to pen a new contract at Anfield caught the gaze of the continent’s free transfer specialists.
His penultimate season under Jurgen Klopp was, on an individual note, a superb one for Can. Having amassed 57 league outings from his previous two campaigns, his importance to the team grew during the 2016/17 campaign as goals, guile, guts and assists were brought into his game as Klopp began putting his stamp on the club’s playing style.
That was all topped off on May 1, when he
His return to the side that season came on the grandest of stages, earning himself a place on the bench for the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid in Kiev. His late seven-minute cameo did little to alter the result though, as Liverpool fell to a 3-1 defeat on the night.
By this time, it was widely accepted that Can would move to Italy, a switch which was confirmed just 13 days after the Reds revealed he would leave at the expiry of his deal.
A full German international; young, hungry and with experience on the European club stage. Earning himself a move to a side who’ve dominated their league for years on end are regulars in the Champions League. All seemed so rosy.
The enormity of the challenge didn’t seem to faze Can, who would make 29 league appearances and bag four goals in his debut Serie A season. Under
The infamous ‘Sarriball’ which caused uproar at former club Chelsea represents a brand of football that centres around a fast-paced, possession-based style in the ilk of a vertical ‘tiki-taka’. A style that requires mobile and accurate passers of the ball in midfield, the change has dramatically stunted Can’s development.
Summer signings Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot are far more suited to such a role, where a single holding midfielder acts as the anchor for the more mobile, forward thinking midfield pair.
One can assume that throughout the summer’s pre-season training, Sarri has not seen enough of these traits in Can to warrant a role in the starting XI, leaving the German with just 78 minutes of Serie A football in three substitute appearances.
His woes were compounded in early September, when Sarri opted not to include him in his 22-man Champions League squad; a damning indictment of his faith in the midfielder.
The bit-part role he’s been bestowed with in Turin has clearly had an adverse effect on his international career as well.
🗣️ Emre Can leaving Liverpool: “The first target has to be to win Serie A and then comes the Champions League. I am here to help the team.
🤦♂️ Emre Can now… pic.twitter.com/IiPziDQTEa
— 90min (@90min_Football) September 4, 2019
With a new, emerging swathe of German internationals being meticulously moulded into the next generation by Joachim Low, Can has the chance to be one of the more senior figures for a youthful Mannschaft.
That, too, hasn’t gone to plan. Over the recent international break, Low’s new three-man defence has handed Can an opportunity to reinvent himself in a position he has filled in for previously. Giving Can the benefit of the doubt, his outcast role at the Allianz Stadium has crossed over to the national team, with two poor showings tainting what should have been a welcome respite from the gruelling situation in northern Italy.
A friendly draw against Argentina did little to improve his reputation, as a second-half fightback from the visitors had the German defence run ragged.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Can completely lost his bearings in the following match against Estonia before a wild lunge on
Given Ramsey’s injury record and Rabiot’s temperament, there may still be hope for a Juventus revival. However, at present, it’s a matter of simply applying himself accordingly and training, and making every opportunity count.