Last year, I wrote an article on the possible destinations for Turkish midfielder Nuri Sahin. I thought he would have been fantastic in the Premier League with the likes of Manchester United or Chelsea and would have been a great fit with A.C. Milan in Serie A.
In the end, Sahin ended up with La Liga outfit Real Madrid, one of the teams I listed as a bad choice because they were “too overcrowded at his position.”
Although injuries have kept him from a proper preseason, the creative playmaker has gained full-match fitness, as evidenced by almost 90-minute matches against Slovakia and APOEL. Jose Mourinho, however, doesn’t seem convinced.
Now, I’m not one to put words in Mourinho’s mouth, but if you take a look at his history, Sahin is not the type of player Mourinho likes in his teams. Mourinho’s preferred system is to have a flat four at the back guarded by two strong defensive-minded midfielders. In attack, he uses a playmaker surrounded by three forwards.
With Chelsea, Mourinho built the system Avram Grant used to guide the team to the final of the Champions League in 2008. Claude Makelele and Michael Ballack acted as the two holders in midfield, while Frank Lampard was given reign in attack, surrounded by Joe Cole, Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda.
The system progressed in 2010 when Mourinho led Inter to the Champions League title. Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso were the two destroyers in the middle of the park who supplied the ball to the playmaker, in this case, Wesley Sneijder.
Looking at the current Madrid team, Sahin is stuck between the role of a holding midfielder and playmaker. He isn’t strong enough to battle attackers deep in his own half a la Xabi Alonso; Sahin is a very good tackler and can read the game well, but his skills aren’t best served in a reserved role. Likewise, on the attacking front, Sahin wouldn’t hit his ceiling as a fantasista because it would limit his best trait—his killer long balls.
What does this mean for Sahin? It’s not exactly the end of the world. However, Madrid are doing a disservice to keep a player of Sahin’s quality on the bench.
Sahin is virtually a guaranteed starter at any club in the world, bar Barcelona. Liverpool wouldn’t mind having him in their squad. Milan could certainly use his creativity and flair in a midfield filled with stone masons such as Antonio Nocerino and Massimo Ambrosini. Though Sahin’s career in the Spanish capital might not be coming to an end anytime soon, both club and player would do best to loan him out for a season or two.
You just can’t leave the kind of talent Sahin possesses on the bench.