Emre Can: What’s Going on, Buddy?

​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 carefully eyeballed Lucas Leiva’s pinpoint diagonal pass into the ​Watford area, and demonstrated extraordinary athleticism to meet the delivery with a perfectly executed bicycle kick into Heurelho Gomes’ top right corner.

His celebration indicated a mutual love between himself and the manager; running towards the man in the hotseat and knee sliding into his adoring, open arms.

So, where did it all go wrong?

Murmurs surfaced throughout the following summer that the ​Serie A champions were interested in signing the 25-year-old – who was yet to commit to a new deal in the north-west. Reports emerged almost weekly regarding a pre-contract agreement with ​Juventus, although Can maintained a prominent role in the Reds’ side until a back injury in March of 2018 ruled him out for the season.

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.

Gareth Bale,Andy Robertson,Emre Can,Virgil van Dijk,Dejan Lovren

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 Massimiliano Allegri, Juventus adopted a pragmatic approach, where results outweighed the style of play. This favoured Can, who formed a midfield partnership with Blaise Matuidi that added the midfield steel Allegri desired, allowing the natural talents of his forward players to flourish.

For away matches, this could change to a midfield three, which equally suited Can’s jack-of-all-trades style – having been converted from a holding midfielder to a more box-to-box player during his time at Liverpool. 

With the arrival of Maurizio Sarri, however; all of that has changed.

Emre Can

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.

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 Frank Liivak had him sent for an early shower just 14 minutes in.

Nothing seems to be going right for poor old Emre. He simply can’t catch a break.

Emre Can

From overhead kicks, Goal of the Season awards and European finals, the upward trajectory that looked like unfolding has instead unraveled having fallen victim to the dreaded managerial change.

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.


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