“He’s the guy they all feed off – he’s the first guy closing down, the first guy back, the first guy forward, he’s all over the place..”
This was Steve Nichol’s glowing assessment of Emre Can after Liverpool’s impressive 3-0 demolition of Villareal in the Europa League semi-final.
Jamie Carragher also singled out Can’s performance, which he labelled as “outstanding.”
Can’s determined return from injury was a major factor in Liverpool’s victory, and the young midfielder bossed the game for 90 minutes. The news that Can had trained at Melwood for 8 hours a day for 3 weeks in order to be fit for the win over Villareal made his performance all the more impressive.
The German – who has five international caps – was born to Turkish parents in Frankfurt, and began his career at SV Blau-Gelb Frankfurt at the age of six. He spent three years at the youth academy of Eintracht Frankfurt (2006-9), before signing for Bayern Munich.
However, first team opportunities for the teenager were at a premium, and after just four senior appearances and one goal, he signed for Bayern Leverkusen in 2013.
One year later, Brendan Rodgers took the imposing midfielder to Anfield, for just under £10 million. Despite making a slow start to life on Merseyside, the 22 year old soon settled, and his versatility, along with his ability, was immediately clear.
His glorious assist for Divock Origi’s goal in the 4-3 thriller over Dortmund encompassed all that Can can provide; power, passing and precision.
Klopp is clearly a fan. In December, he said;
“Emre, is a really good player. He’s a big talent but like every young player he has to learn.”
Since then, Can has come into his own.
His ability to excel in a number of positions has made him indispensable to the club. In a somewhat turbulent and inconsistent season, Can’s performances have rarely wavered in his 46 appearances thus far.
Perhaps Liverpool’s indifferent league performance has resulted in Can not receiving the attention that his performances have merited.
His performances on the pitch are the embodiment of Klopp’s philosophy. He presses well, he tackles well, and possesses all of the requisite attributes to become a world class box-to-box midfielder.
German boss Joachim Lowe was effusive in his praise for Can after his first cap for Germany;
“I like the way he plays. Technically he is clever, he plays clean, simple passes and has a good positional sense.”
Can has mainly operated at right back thus far for the reigning world champions, but a future midfield role seems inevitable.
Despite being just 22, Can is a natural leader, and his determination and bravery have ensured that he is a firm fan favourite, and a strong contender for future captaincy.
The Europa League final is a good platform for the imposing German to assert his presence, and if Can can continue to develop as a player, he is sure to be a mainstay in midfield for both Liverpool and Germany for the next decade.
Perhaps he may even grow into the next iconic Liverpool midfielder…
by David Smith