While most hardcore Bundesliga fans know who Hakan Calhanoglu is by now, the 21-year-old Bayer Leverkusen midfielder is still under the radar for many casual soccer fans around the globe. The German-born Calhanoglu’s stock is rapidly rising since his switch to Leverkusen from Hamburger SV last summer.
Labeled “the next Mesut Ozil”, for both his play on the field and his German and Turkish heritage, Calhanoglu is a free kick monster with an extremely accurate shot in and around the box. The 21-year-old attacking midfielder has already collected 10 goals and eight assists in all competitions this season for the German club.
Calhanoglu was nominated for the 2014 Golden Boy award. The trophy is voted on by sports journalists and given to the most talented player in European soccer under the age of 21 (an award that Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling went on to win).
After making five appearances for the senior Turkey national team in 2013 and 2014, Calhanoglu was dropped from the team for peculiar reasons that reportedly involved one of his teammates allegedly brandishing a gun in a hotel room.
Turkey national team manager Fatih Termin recently watched Calhanoglu in a Champions League match against Atletico Madrid, a game in which the 21-year-old scored a goal, and a return to the national team seems imminent for the youngster.
Calhanoglu’s high level of play for Leverkusen has created interest from some of the top clubs in the world. Arsenal, Barcelona and Liverpool have all been rumored to be linked with the attacking midfielder during the upcoming summer transfer window.
The 21-year-old recently spoke about news of top-tier clubs. Calhanoglu told TRT, “
“There is no official offer but I was proud to hear of the transfer rumors. My agent will take over in transfer dealings, but right now I feel good at Leverkusen. I have career goals but firstly we want to beat Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.”
The player’s agent also cooled talks of a switch by telling Express, “I don’t want this to sound arrogant, but Hakan isn’t bothered by the interest in him from Barcelona. Hakan has everything he needs at Leverkusen: he’s in the Champions League, is vying for the DFB-Pokal and things are going well in the Bundesliga.”
Although Barca’s interest in Calhanoglu makes sense, as the Catalan club’s dynamic midfield duo of Andres Iniesta and Xavi are both over 30, Arsenal’s link to Calhanoglu is a bit puzzling on the surface.
There is surely little doubt that the Turkey international has the talent to play for a world-class club; however, the Gunners have a plethora of attack-minded midfielders currently in the squad (Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky, and Jack Wilshere).
Nevertheless, Rosicky is 34 (but still playing like a 20-year-old) and there has been talk that Atletico Madrid want to sign the Spain international Cazorla in the summer, while that is something that appears to be unlikely.
The Gunners also reportedly favor sending outcast Lukas Podolski to Leverkusen as part of a potential deal for Calhanoglu. Whether the German club, or Podolski, would be open to the switch remains to be seen.
Any transfer for Calhanoglu will likely cost a club around £20 million.
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