Profile: ‘Absolutely incredible’ - Klopp was impressed by City new boy’s Liverpool impact
- Credit: PA
Hailed by Jurgen Klopp as ‘absolutely incredible’ for his Liverpool loan stint, Ozan Kabak arrives at Norwich City with a Premier League point to prove.
The centre-back doesn’t turn 22 until March but already has 12 international caps, 80 top-flight appearances in Germany, England and Turkey and eight matches in the Champions League on his CV.
After getting a taste for the Premier League earlier this year with the Merseyside giants, Kabak has been persuaded that the Canaries can offer him the platform to build on the momentum of his loan spell.
He was one of the defenders that Klopp turned to during an injury crisis which contributed to the Reds being dethroned after their 2020 title triumph, making 13 appearances and helping to keep six clean sheets prior to an unexplained muscle injury keeping him out of the final five matches.
Sky Sports had reported that a permanent fee of £18m was in place, potentially rising to £26.5m in add-on fees, but Liverpool opted to sign Ibrahima Konate from Leipzig for £36m.
“Ozan was absolutely incredible, he did a great job and not to forget he is a young, young, young boy with incredible experience already,” Klopp told his club's website in May when asked about the potential of a permanent deal.
“He was at different clubs, moved early from Turkey to Germany. Played in two big clubs in Germany in difficult situations, which is obviously not his fault.
“We could all see when he arrived here he needed a little bit of time to adapt. Then he played super games for us; I don’t want to pick any games out, but the two Leipzig games (in the Champions League last 16) were absolutely incredible if you think how good Leipzig can be.
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“All about the future, we will talk about and will decide about that after the last matchday.”
Instead, it is in Norfolk where the youngster will continue trying to forge his Premier League reputation though, becoming City’s first Turkish player, joining on loan with a view to a permanent deal if successful.
He progressed through the youth system of 22-time Turkish champions Galatasaray and made a brief debut as an 18-year-old in May 2018.
Legendary coach Faith Terim gave him that debut, a former Turkey defender in his fourth stint in charge of the Istanbul giants, having also coached Turkey three times as well as spells at AC Milan and Fiorentina – leading the national team to the semi-finals of Euro 2008.
Terim was impressed and swiftly after the start of the 2018-19 campaign, Kabak was a regular starter in the Super Lig, making 13 appearances during the first half of a season that would end in Galatasaray celebrating winning the title. The youngster wouldn’t be there then though.
Just six months into his senior career and the Bundesliga was calling, having also started four Champions League games, helping to earn a 0-0 home draw with Schalke as Galatasaray exited at the group stage.
That contributed to Stuttgart reportedly offering close to £10m to take him to Germany in 2019 and Kabak was straight into the thick of a relegation battle.
After a tough debut during a 4-1 loss away to champions Bayern Munich, he generally helped towards defensive improvement – bar one bad day, a 6-0 loss at Augsburg when he had been pushed into a midfield role.
It was to be relegation play-off heartbreak though after finishing third from bottom, four points adrift of Augsburg, with a 2-2 home draw against second-tier side Union Berlin followed by a 0-0 away draw and defeat on away goals.
Kabak had done enough to convince that he belonged in the Bundesliga though, with Schalke reportedly activating a release clause of around £13m to keep him in the top flight in the summer of 2019.
Playing under former Huddersfield boss David Wagner - the man who had succeeded Daniel Farke at Borussia Dortmund II and that City’s sporting director Stuart Webber had brought to England – a strong start to the season for a club that finished second in 2018 would end up in mid-table.
The drop off in form followed the two-month suspension of the season due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with Schalke finishing 12th with an average defensive record and a struggle for goals.
Just six defenders averaged more than Kabak’s 2.9 aerial duels won per game in the league that season, with three goals and a pass success rate of 81.5pc to his name.
However, 2020-21 would prove a nightmare season for Schalke, being relegated for the first time in over 30 years and changing head coach twice – with Kabak joining Liverpool on loan in January and returning with his parent club in the second tier after finishing bottom and adrift by 15 points.
After an 8-0 thumping away to the giants of Bayern Munich on the opening day of last season, Kabak was sent off after picking up a second yellow card during a 3-1 home defeat to Werder Bremen - with his new City team-mate Josh Sargent starting for the visitors and setting up the opener but Milot Rashica not involved.
However, his suspension was increased to five matches after TV footage showed him spitting in the direction of an opponent after a tackle – a charge he protested fiercely.
"I wish to sincerely apologize to Ludwig Augustinsson. It was not my intention, it was an accident. I did not aim at him, the TV angle gives a deceptive view of the incident," Kabak posted on Twitter.
"I never did that before and won’t do it in the future, as it’s unsporting. This was very unlucky."
Fortunately for his own career, Liverpool came calling and he was able to escape the hot mess of Schalke’s season, helping Turkey to World Cup qualification wins over Holland – and Tim Krul – and Norway before a disappointing group-stage exit at the Euros thanks to defeats to Italy, Wales and Switzerland, with Kabak being kept on the bench.
There have been plenty of highs and lows for the young man already, ensuring he will be hungry for the next chapter of his story to be positive while with Norwich.
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