By Clark Whitney
On Thursday, and with little warning, Liverpool announced the signing of Samed Yesil. Coming at the end of a summer laden with prolonged transfer sagas and sky-high release fees, the 18-year-old’s move from Bayer Leverkusen was almost covert.
Indeed, when the Liverpool website broke news of Yesil’s signing, the player’s name was not even mentioned: “Reds Sign Youth Striker” declared the headline. The signing of a young player for such a modest fee of £1 million might be easy to overlook. But when history reflects, Yesil just might be remembered as this summer’s greatest transfer coup.
Throughout his development, Yesil has always been well above the curve: he scored his first goal for Leverkusen at Under-17 level when he was just 14 years old. Two seasons later, he made his debut with the Under-19 team. And in 2011-12, he was the top scorer among all of Germany’s Under-19 leagues, West, North/Northeast, and South/Southwest.
|SAMED YESIL: EXPERT VIEW
|Falko Bloeding | Goal.com Germany
Bayer Leverkusen letting Samed Yesil go to Liverpool comes as a big, big surprise. Yesil is one of the brightest talents in German football right now and was expected to see first-team action this season.
He is a very skillful, two-footed striker who is at his best once he gets into the box, but he can also play out wide. He has scored 57 goals in 71 matches for Bayer’s youth teams in the last two years, an extraordinary statistic. He also captains Germany’s Under-19 and won the “Silver Shoe” at the Under-17 World Cup two years ago.
I personally think it would be a huge surprise if Yesil makes an immediate impact on the Premier League. He must work on his strength and learn to cope with better defenders but, in the long term, his work-rate should see him succeed.
A glance at Yesil’s goalscoring record alone reveals a striker with an uncommon eye for goal: his 58 strikes in 80 appearances for Leverkusen are especially impressive given he played most of those matches at a level multiple years above his age, and his 22 goals in 27 matches for Germany at Under-17, Under-18, and Under-19 levels speak volumes of his adaptability and superiority over his peers.
To portray Yesil as a collection of figures would do him a great injustice, however: there is far more to the player than statistics can show. While he is undoubtedly a natural centre forward, the Dusseldorf native is as comfortable as a midfielder with the ball at his feet. His touch is soft, his dribbling controlled, and he has the creative spark to play clever back-heels and through-passes to his team-mates. At the 2011 Under-17 World Cup, Yesil recorded more assists than any other player as Germany set a new record for goals scored in the competition.
After making his Bundesliga debut in April, it appeared that Yesil was destined for stardom at Leverkusen. However, the player has taken on a hefty challenge in making the move to Liverpool – time will tell whether it was more than he was prepared to handle.
Given the nature of his position, it was always going to be difficult for Yesil to earn regular playing time before reaching physical maturity. Adding in the Premier League’s reputation for demanding power and strength in central strikers, the starlet faces a challenge that he admitted was substantial in his first interview as a Liverpool player: “It’s important that I improve physically because the Premier League is a tough league,” he said.
Yesil has struggled to cope with the physical demands of playing against more mature opponents, and went scoreless in four matches with Leverkusen’s Under-23 team before his move to England. He has played as many fixtures with Germany’s Under-18 and Under-19 sides over the last calendar year, and enjoyed no more success. Despite all his abundant talent, Yesil still has plenty of work to do, both on the pitch and in the weights room.
Should he overcome the hurdles of adapting to a new language, culture, and style of play, Yesil would not be the first striker to make an early debut at Liverpool. However, the precedents reveal another hurdle: Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler were tremendous talents in their teens and were shuttled through to the senior side long before reaching physical maturity. History will remember their expedited promotion as a mistake, as the careers of both players were blighted by recurring injuries.
New to England and still very raw in both physical and technical development, Yesil must not be rushed into first-team football, nor should great things be expected of him even in his first two or three years on Merseyside. Liverpool must be patient; a loan spell in the 2. Bundesliga would do the player a world of good.
It will take time for Yesil to repay his transfer fee, but when he does, the dividends could be staggering. Liverpool may have signed the next Drogba on Thursday – now they have to bring the best out of him.