Hamburg's Hakan Calhanoglu, who has been linked with Arsenal and Liverpool, per Bild, via Stephan Uersfeld at ESPNFC.com, is becoming a headline act in the Bundesliga, so here is a scouting report on the 20-year-old Turkish international.
In the space of one year and 22 days, Calhanoglu played 3. Liga (German equivalent of League One), 2. Bundesliga and Bundesliga football.
"Of course it will be tough moving from the third division to the top flight," Calhanoglu said before the season, per Hamburg's official website. "My goal is to play in the first-team."
Calhanoglu not only achieved his goal of being a regular fixture in Hamburg's starting XI, but he has also developed into a must-watch player in the Bundesliga.
He has transitioned well into Bundesliga football in spite of the club's instability, with relegation a realistic scenario.
Thorsten Fink, the manager who gave Calhanoglu his Bundesliga debut, was fired.
Former Netherlands national team manager Bert van Marwijk, who succeeded Fink, suffered the same fate as his predecessor.
The club hierarchy hired Mirko Slomka, who was dismissed from Hannover 96, and have thrown him into the high-pressure situation of trying to keep Hamburg afloat.
With Hamburg star Rafael van der Vaart, a former Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur player, out injured due to damaged ankle ligaments, per Bundesliga.com, Calhanoglu has the No. 10 position to himself.
He has played on the left wing as an inverted winger, though he is more suited to a central attacking midfield role.
"Last season in Karlsruhe I played on the right and left of midfield. If I get a chance I plan to take it regardless of where I play," Calhanoglu said, per Hamburg's official website. "Of course I love playing the No. 10 role."
It was that position that made him stand out for Turkey during the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup, and the FIFA technical study group highlighted him as a key player, per FIFA.com: "Energetic attacking midfielder with good dribbling skills and technique."
If you watched him play, he gave you a glimpse of what was to come in the Bundesliga. The Australians backed away, trusting their excellent shot-stopper Paul Izzo to make a save. Calhanoglu punished the Aussies and powered a shot that veered past Izzo.
Calhanoglu the Showman
Calhanoglu's physics-defying free-kick that radically swerved past Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller is one of the most outrageous goals you will ever see.
Weidenfeller will be the last Bundesliga keeper to harmlessly wander off his line from now on when Calhanoglu steps up to take a free-kick for Hamburg.
Given the extensive video analysis top-flight footballers undergo preparing in the lead-up to a match, it was unfathomable that Weidenfeller felt compelled to essentially dare Calhanoglu to shoot.
Weidenfeller would have seen Calhanoglu catch Wolfsburg keeper Diego Benaglio out with an audacious free-kick last November.
While Eintracht Braunschweig keeper Daniel Davari was not embarrassed to the degree Benaglio and Weidenfeller were, Davari was outwitted by Calhanoglu.
Davari expected Calhanoglu to curl the ball over the wall to the open side. So Calhanoglu boldly whipped the ball with pace to the left, the side Davari was covering.
Calhanoglu can also deliver incisive crosses from corners, and Pierre-Michel Lasogga was the beneficiary against Eintracht Frankfurt—that headed goal precipitated Lasogga's goalscoring streak (eight goals in a six-game league spell; 11 goals in the Bundesliga this season).
You may think Calhanoglu is purely a set-piece specialist, but that is not necessarily true.
His first goal in the Bundesliga came via him cutting in from the left wing and shooting the ball past the hapless Davari, who should have saved it.
Calhanoglu does not avoid defensive responsibilities, as he wins back possession 2.6 times per league game.
In Hamburg's 5-3 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen, central midfielder Simon Rolfes had his pass intercepted by Calhanoglu, who provided a through ball that led to Maximilian Beister scoring.
Areas Calhanoglu Needs To Improve
The primary concern with Calhanoglu is carelessness when in possession.
He sometimes telegraphs a pass that is easily intercepted, which is why his pass completion percentage has hovered from 60-62 three times.
His overall pass completion percentage of 72.9 is not concurrent with his world-class technique.
Calhanoglu naturally is a risk taker, and with Hamburg needing wins, he has upped the ante and tried to accumulate an assist with every pass. That is why he has been turning over the ball with regularity.
Yes, he is a freakishly accurate shooter from long distance, but he is not an efficient shooter, and his shot selection needs improving.
Take away the three free-kicks, and he has scored three league goals from 42 shots.
Premier League Quality?
Calhanoglu signed a contract extension, which will keep him at Hamburg until 2018.
"I want to play for the club in the Bundesliga for many years to come," Calhanoglu said, per Hamburg's official website. "I have always said that I feel at home in Hamburg."
The key word is Bundesliga.
Would he play in the 2. Bundesliga if Hamburg, currently 18th, were to be relegated?
Calhanoglu is technically proficient enough and has the mentality to succeed in the Premier League.
Even if Hamburg were to suffer relegation—which would be a red flag, as you expect Calhanoglu to start producing match-winning performances in crunch time—he should stay and get the club back into the top division.
A year ago, he was playing in the 3. Liga.
If he can develop this quickly in only 12 months, where will he be in another 12 months?
Should a Premier League club come calling in the summer transfer window, staying at Hamburg should be Calhanoglu's decision.
Statistics via WhoScored.
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