Nuri Sahin has just emerged from one of the most mundane prolonged transfer sagas ever witnessed in modern football. For starters, the hype surrounded a loan move rather than a permanent deal with only Arsenal and Liverpool realistic destinations, although neither club appeared willing to declare their interest.
The Turkish international seemed to favour a move to North London after being seduced by the lure of the Champions League. Arsene Wenger repeatedly blushed at the mention of Sahin’s name but suddenly withdrew his interest after hearing the vast portion of the £115,000 weekly wage he would have to contribute to. Naturally, Liverpool were undeterred by such excessive financial demands and quickly secured his signature, forcing Wenger and his new glasses to look elsewhere.
The two clubs meet this Sunday in a Premier League encounter that should see Sahin make his debut. In the wake of another lengthy injury to fan favourite Lucas, Sahin will be expected to replicate his battling and tenacious displays while conforming to Brendan Rodgers’ new total football philosophy. A tall order you may ask? Not if you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching the deep-lying playmaker excel in the Bundesliga prior to his move to Real Madrid.
Sahin is blessed with two quick feet that thrive on dictating play with an impressive array of passes. His ability to pick out a player from across the pitch will instinctively remind Liverpool fans of Xabi Alonso, who incidentally played a key role in convincing him to move to Merseyside.
“He is still in love with Liverpool, I think. He was saying, ‘Go there, you will love it – the fans will take care of you and love you,’ and things like that. He said Anfield is the best stadium in the world.” (premierleague.com)
However, with reports looming that Liverpool failed to agree a future fee or first refusal clause, they risk losing out on a permanent deal – should Sahin live up to his potential – just as Swansea did with Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Over the years Real Madrid have developed a familiar trend of picking up promising youngsters only to watch them struggle to displace the current crop of Galacticos. For instance, Sergio Canales was one of the brightest lights in La Liga during his time at Racing Santander before an ill-fated move to Madrid severely hampered his development. The player has since sealed a move to Valencia having escaped to the Mestalla on loan last season as he seeks to revitalise his career.
Only yesterday Queens Park Rangers completed the surprising purchase of highly-rated midfielder Esteban Granero. Aside from the obvious financial incentives, this deal proves that the prospect of first-team football is an incredibly attractive option, even for players at a club of Madrid’s stature. Clubs such as Newcastle or perhaps Tottenham may now consider realistically targeting players of Sahin’s or Granero’s calibre, especially with the latter’s newfound relationship with the Spanish giants.
Sahin’s label as a ‘failure’ in Spain is incredibly harsh considering he was struggling with fitness throughout the majority of the season. Unlike in England, there is no reserve football in La Liga – instead the ‘B’ teams operate as a separate identity – which would have severely hampered Sahin’s recovery and chances of competing for a first-team place. Liverpool fans can draw comfort from the fact that Sahin has enjoyed a full pre-season and clocked up several impressive performances despite playing out of position at left-back. This is encouraging news unless you’re Stewart Downing.
If Liverpool want to continue to attract the very best talent from across the world then they need to replicate their performance against reigning champions Manchester City on a consistent basis. The target for this season has to be the Champions League, however unrealistic it might seem otherwise the top four could swoop in and continue to reap all the rewards.