Search icon


21st Oct 2015

Emre Can can be something special under Jurgen Klopp

If anyone can...

Nooruddean Choudry

Ask Liverpool supporters which of their current squad has the most potential, and you’ll generally hear the same names.

The already excellent Philippe Coutinho; the anti-Johnson Nathaniel Clyne; exciting youngsters Jordon Ibe and Jordan ‘The Rock’ Rossiter.

One player who will feature highly is the somewhat left-field name of Emre Can. The former Bayer Leverkusen man has firmly established himself as a firm favourite at Anfield.

To say his inclusion is surprising is no slight on the player. It’s more to highlight the disparity between how highly he is rated within Scouse circles and those outside of the Liverpool bubble.

Firstly he doesn’t seem like a youngster. With his strapping 6-foot plus frame and square shoulders he looks around 26/27. In actual fact he is two years Coutinho’s junior at 21.

Then there’s the fact that he is hasn’t exactly set the world alight since joining Liverpool in the summer of 2014. Not to the casual observer at least. He’s just a useful enough utility player, no?

That’s how he has been treated. As with other players able to perform a number of roles, he was shifted everywhere. Even his international debut saw him filling in at right-back.

Brendan Rodgers needed no excuse to force a square peg into every round hole possible. A coach who seemed to pick his formations like a game of Tetris loved Can’s fillability.

But that doesn’t help define the player or aid his development. Instead he becomes sort of okay at everything, without ever being integral anywhere. Useful rather than invaluable.

Regardless, Scousers rave about him. They see a genuine star in the perpetual understudy. Look beyond his unselfish endeavours and he is far more than a mere shift worker.

In terms of raw tools, Can has a bit of everything. He is immensely strong, fierce in the tackle and astute in his passing. And when he gets going he is an absolute juggernaut.

But as with so many of Liverpool’s recent signings, he has been bought with function as an after-thought. It’s a case of ‘Great! We’ve got him! Now what do we do with him?’

Can has been treated like an inbetweener; a utility defender who can play a bit, or a stand-in midfielder who can keep things tight. Never ideal, always requiring a level of accommodation.

What he requires at this stage in his career is a manager who believes in him – not as a convenient reserve or an inconvenient starter – but a star in the making. Perhaps even someone to build around.

The very early signs under Jurgen Klopp are positive. The German youngster was a star performer against Spurs on the weekend, and showcased his powerful, combative qualities.

For a player whose stamina was questioned by some pundits when he arrived on Merseyside, he was one of the few to maintain the intensity of ‘gegenpressing’ whilst teammates were blowing out of their arses.

But Can is more than that. With all due respect to someone like James Milner, the 21-year-old is not a merely a great engine. The Englishman is currently a better player, but Can’s potential ceiling is far higher.

Many of the Anfield faithful rate him so highly that he is touted as a potential future captain. A powerful brute who can beat you with either his skill or his ox-like momentum on the run.

Any Liverpool midfielder with qualities that include strength, leadership, ferocious desire and superb technique will inevitably be compared to Steven Gerrard.

If Can is allowed to blossom under Klopp, if his sheer force and varied talents are properly harnessed and honed, then perhaps such comparisons will be made by those without an L postcode.