Why Nuri Sahin flopped so spectacularly at Real Madrid & Liverpool

By Enis Koylu

When Nuri Sahin moved from Borussia Dortmund to Real Madrid in the summer of 2011, many people were expecting the Turkey international, fresh from leading BVB to Bundesliga glory, to become a superstar at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The Spanish capital club had not only acquired a player in top form, but one with his best years ahead of him, and who, alongside fellow Bundesliga graduates Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira, was going to help los Blancos end Barcelona’s stranglehold on the Liga title.

“Sahin is going to become one of the best midfielders around in Europe in the next few seasons,” German legend Paul Breitner said at the time. “He will fit in perfectly at the club.”

Of course, Sahin went on to pick up a Primera Division winner’s medal last May, but could not have contributed much less to the success. Now, 18 months on from the big move, he is right back where he started, knowing that the last season and a half have been wasted.

The 24-year-old’s ill-fated stint in Spain could, in part, be attributed to poor timing. He had arrived there injured, and did not have the benefit of a full pre-season like his competitors for a midfielder spot.

Out-of-shape and out-of-place, Madrid were already on a roll when he had recovered. Jose Mourinho’s reticence to use him in the first team was perfectly understandable – he did not want to disturb the balance of the team and risk losing momentum.

When he grabbed his first goal against Ponferradina in the final game before Christmas, it seemed as though 2012 could be his year. Liga action resumed in January, but he still could not buy a place in the team, and, when given the opportunity to prove his worth in low-profile fixtures, he came up short.

Something was certainly not right with Sahin. It was patently obvious that the player was not happy at the Santiago Bernabeu, despite his protestations that he was determined to force his way into the first team.

“To be a success at Real Madrid is not easy at all, especially in your first year. But next season will be my season. I hope to win many titles here”

Nuri Sahin, May 2012

At the season’s end, he performed admirably during a series of Turkey friendlies, and even scored his first international goal in seven years against Georgia in May. It was obvious that he was too good to warm the bench at Madrid – he needed to play.

As Goal.com Liga expert Paul Macdonald explains: “In 2011, one of the most coveted midfielders in Europe never arrived at Santiago Bernabeu. The Sahin that probed, passed and performed to an exemplary standard in Dormund’s Bundesliga triumph was replaced by an ill-prepared doppelganger that could never convince Mourinho.













“The medial ligament problem that left him weeks behind his colleagues in pre-season proved to be an irrevocable beginning. Mourinho remains a staunch admirer of Khedira, and Xabi Alonso’s consecutive selections in the FifPro XI highlight the respect he earns among his peers and solidifies his standing as one of the most influential midfielders in the world.

“In Mourinho’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, Sahin faced the challenge of his fledgling career to be accepted and integrated into the Madrid set-up, particularly given his coach’s propensity to select the strongest possible team in every outing. But, physically, and, in all certainty, psychologically, his false start meant he was never in a position to stake his claim and prove his worth. Circumstance conspired against him and Sahin’s spell in Spain will represent nothing more than a passing memory.”

And, sure enough, the summer brought with it a move away from Spain. There was no shortage of suitors for him, with Arsenal and Liverpool squaring off to take the player on loan.

It was the Merseyside outfit who won the race to sign Sahin, who had the chance to start afresh in England and reestablish himself. It was not to be. Promising in fits and bursts, he soon found himself frozen out of the Reds’ first team.

It may well have been the wrong move to begin with. After his experience in Spain, Sahin needed to be nursed back to capacity in a stable environment. Liverpool, who had suffered a fall from grace themselves in recent years, could not offer that.

Anfield was never the right place for him. Bild claimed that he had been “betrayed” by Brendan Rodgers regarding promises about which position he would play, while Steven Gerrard was said to be jealous of the Turk. Mediocre players like Jonjo Shelvey were picked ahead of him.

Goal.com UK’s David Lynch adds: “Sahin’s double in the Capital One Cup victory over West Brom in September was supposed to signal the start of the midfielder’s return to form – an indication of what Liverpool had landed themselves for the season. However, doubts about his ability to adapt to England and an uncertainty over where to deploy him have led to a premature and disappointing end to his time there.

“The talent Sahin possesses was clear to see on rare occasions but the misuse of the 24-year-old coupled with suggestions that his signing might have been the work of the club’s former director of communications, Jen Chang, make this latest development understandable.”

He had no choice but to cut short his stay in Merseyside as soon as January came along. So he went back to Dortmund, where he belongs.

BVB, with their Echte Liebe philosophy, will give Sahin what he needs to get his career back on track and ensure that it does not end before it truly begins.

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