Given disappointing results in the EURO 2016 and significantly poor performance during the qualification stage of Russia 2018, the need for change obviously emerged in Turkish football. While Fatih Terim had lost his control over the players in EURO 2016, Terim and captain Arda Turan were the subjects of some unpleasant events. In sum, the Turkish Football Federation has decided on starting over with a clean slate with an old friend Mircea Lucescu at the onset of the UEFA Nations League.
Nevertheless, the results did not happen as wished! On November 17, the Turkish National Football Team was defeated by Sweden. Following the game, Turkey ranks third in Group 2, including Russia and Sweden, with 3 points and relegated to ‘League C’ in the UEFA Nations League. Has Turkey really rejuvenated throughout the UEFA Nations League? If so, how this process has been handled so far?
Proposition 1: The Turkey National Football Team is undergoing a radical rejuvenation process.
Strongly Agree: Cenk Tosun is the only player older than 25 who had outpaced the level of 80 minutes per game. The average age of the remaining four players (Hakan Çalhanoğlu, Okay Yokuşlu, Cengiz Ünder and Çağlar Söyüncü) is 22.75.
Proposition 2: Turkish football has difficulties in finding and developing young football players. In this regard, the Turkey National Team is dependent on expat footballers, mainly from Germany.
Disagree: There are six players, who had played more than 45 minutes per game, under the age of 25 in the Turkey National Team. 4 of these players (Okay Yokuşlu, Cengiz Ünder, Çağlar Söyüncü and Zeki Çelik) had grown in Turkey and moved to some European leagues.
Proposition 3: The Turkey National Football Team started to be formed from players playing in various European leagues.
Strongly Agree but Misleading: During the UEFA Nations League, Hasan Ali is seen as the only footballer, who played in the Super League, among the main players in the Turkey National Football Team. Almost all other key elements of the team are playing in various European leagues. However, their appearance figures display an unstable course.
Apart from Sinan Bolat, Zeki Çelik and Kaan Ayhan, Turkish legionaries cannot wear the uniform regularly in league games. While Hakan Çalhanoğlu and Cengiz Ünder have reached the appearance level of 60% in the Serie A; Çağlar Söyüncü, Okay Yokuşlu and Cenk Tosun have not taken the chance to play constantly.
What’s more, the level of Turkish players’ teams bears question mark! Cenk Tosun, Hakan Çalhanoğlu and Cengiz Ünder could be considered as footballers playing at the top level of the Europa. Nevertheless, other key players – such as Sinan Bolat, Zeki Çelik, Çağlar Söyüncü, Okay Yokuşlu, Kaan Ayhan and Yunus Mallı – struggle for playing in midlevel or low-profile teams in the Premier League, the Bundesliga, the Ligue 1 and the Jupiler Pro League.