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Jul 06

RP Online Article (5.7.14): Bayer Leverkusen is taking a risk with Calhanoglu

Link to original RP-O article

Leverkusen. The German-Turk is reportedly transferring to Leverkusen from HSV for 14.5 million Euro after a long back and forth period.  For many he is starting on mortgaged time, because he essentially forced his way out of Hamburg.  That has even alienated some Bayer Fans.  Written by Stefan Kluettermann

In the summer of 2013, Wolfgang Holzhaeuser was still manager at Bayer Leverkusen.  As such, he was invited by the Kreissparkasse Heinsberg to give a presentation about worth in football.  A woman in the audience wanted to know if the Werks-klub actually looked at the character of a player before it made a decision about signing him.  “As a matter of principle, we pay attention to a player’s character,” Holzhaeuser responded.  But when there is great need for, for example, a striker, some trade-offs can be made.

Barely a year later Holzhaeuser is long gone from his position, but with Bayer 04 yesterday revealing the signing of Hamburg’s Hakan Calhanoglu for a rumored 14.5 million Euro, his response couldn’t have been more relevant.  In the eyes of many, the Werksklub had signed a 20 year-old who, in the last weeks, has raised questions about his integrity to his employer.

Many observers were angry that the German Turk played out his transfer wishes in the open during the nerve-filled season finale that threatened to relegate Hamburg SV – and all that after he had extended his contract until 2018 earlier in the year.  In May, Calhanoglu lobbied for understanding of his transfer desires, because he could play Champions League football in Leverkusen.  He wanted to go as far as a Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, he said.

Those who continued to look out of him considered him, at the very least, poorly advised.  Those with less interest in his cause criticized him – sometimes most heavily in social media.  He was out of favor with the HSV fans and suddenly became a problem for the club.  Most recently, Calhanoglu received a four-week sick pass from a psychologist and missed the start of the Hansa team’s training.

Now Calhanoglu’s transfer wish has been granted.  At the beginning HSV objected vehemently to Leverkusen’s courtship of the player and pointed to his contract; but most recently the club must have realized that a) a club can be held hostage by a player, and b) it could well use the 14.5 million Euro to permanently sign Pierre-Michel Lasogga from Berlin.

Meanwhile in Leverkusen there is great joy at having acquired a huge talent and a coveted player.  “Thanks to his playmaker abilities and his danger in front of goal, he is an absolute enrichment for our team.  He is supposed to, and will, give our team an important bump in quality,” said Sport Director Rudi Voeller.  Manager Michael Schade was even able to put a positive spin on Calhanoglu’s contested desire for a transfer: “His early and explicit commitment to Bayer 04 encouraged us not to shelve our efforts even during difficult circumstances,” he was quoted as saying.

What remains for Bayer after this transfer is risk.  On the one hand, a financial one, since 14.5 million Euros is the largest price the club has ever spent on the transfer market.  On the other hand, there are many people who feel that Calhanoglu himself is a risk, since it has to be a concern that his contract until 2019 will likely not be worth much should a big club put out feelers for the player in the near future.

Will Calhanoglu act how he did in Hamburg? Will there be a point when it is once again all about a lucrative re-sale, simply because the player wants to leave?  “I am very happy and will give everything to help the team,” said the young star yesterday.

There will be those keeping their eyes on the shelf-life of his statement.

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