One to Watch: Mehmet Ekici

Posted on June 15, 2011

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Thomas Schaaf begins his 12th season as SV Werder Bremen head coach and it could be his most important yet following a poor campaign in the Bundesliga which left Werder in 13th position, just five points above the relegation positions.

Arguably, the biggest factor behind Die Grün-Weißen‘s slump in form was the sale of attacking midfielder Mesut Özil to Real Madrid after the 22-year-old impressed at the FIFA World Cup in the summer of 2010.

But Schaaf and sporting director Klaus Allofs have quick moves in the close season to replace the void left by Özil last summer and they have chosen their man, Mehmet Ekici.

The Turkish international, who has represented Germany at youth level from U17-U21, joins from FC Bayern for a fee believed to be in the region of €5 million.

Ekici spent over 13 years at FC Bayern, and made 70 appearances for ‘Little Bayern’ over three seasons. His mentor during that time was former FC Bayern attacking midfielder Mehmet Scholl, a German international with Turkish roots, and he believes Ekici’s move to Bremen is the best option for the 21-year-old.

Scholl told BILD: “When Bremen were in the picture, I advise Mehmet (Ekici) to go there. Bremen suits him perfectly. Thomas Schaaf, head coach, and Klaus Allof’s have a calmness about them. That is what Ekici needs now,

“He is still young and he still has to develop somewhat,

“I took Ekici to heart not just as a footballer but as a human being,

“Ekici is technically perfect. He is, however, a different type to Ozil. He is not so quick but is a bigger goal threat,

“If Thomas Schaaf builds a team around Ekici and gives him responsibility, then he will succeed, I’m certain of that”.

After failing to push his way in to the FC Bayern first-team under Louis Van Gaal, Ekici made the sensible move of spending a year on loan at FC Nürnberg where he made 32 appearances in the Bundesliga last season. The 21-year-old helped the Bavarians finish in sixth-place at the end of the season and they narrowly missed out on a Europa League position.

Ekici is one of many young attacking midfielders, born in Germany, who have been coached and nurtured through the national centres in the country. Werder’s new signing, however, has made the choice to represent Turkey at full international level and he has made three appearances for Guus Hiddink’s side.

The Munich-born midfielder has been asked by Hiddink to convince Borussia Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan to join him as a Turkish international. Ekici is highly thought of in Turkey and is set to play a huge part in their long-term future.

The former FC Bayern man is capable of playing anywhere behind the frontman, and at international level will likely play on the left of a 4-2-3-1, but under Schaaf he will take up the role of linking the midfield to the likes of Marin, Hunt, Arnautovic and Pizarro – something sorely lacking in their performances last season.

Werder Bremen have a history of classy attacking-midfield players in recent years such as Mesut Özil, who moved to Real Madrid last summer for €15 million, Diego and Frenchman Johan Micoud. Schaaf’s side has struggled in the past year without Özil to connect the midfield and attack, which the German international did so well in previous seasons.

Bremen’s teams under Schaaf have always had a reputation of attacking football at a high tempo and Özil, in particular, was crucial in getting the best out of Marko Marin, Claudio Pizarro and Aaron Hunt. The former Bayern midfielder, Ekici, will be an integral part of Die Werderaner this coming season.

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Posted in: Feature