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the SPOX column: Three descents for the pride of the Emperor



Fatih Demireli's column

Ozan Kabak is still regarded as one of Europe’s greatest defensive talents, but the 22-year-old Turk’s career took a hit here and there. Soon three relegations, five clubs and injuries stopped the way to the top for the time being. But Kabak not only has potential, but also a powerful friend.

In January 2019, Galatasaray experienced a leadership crisis. There has been speculation all week that Fatih Terim, the Eternal Emperor, is about to step down. The followers in turmoil, the media in constant flow, the board under pressure.

Background of the crisis was Ozan Kabak. VfB Stuttgart presented an offer that the board members, who were stricken by financial problems, wanted to accept immediately. Terim, on the other hand, fought back, not wanting to lose his most valuable talent in the middle of the season.

He was also of the opinion that one can later earn more than the eleven million euros offered by Stuttgart. Terim vetoed it, but the board around the late Mustafa Cengiz waved the transfer through. Kabak went to the Bundesliga. Terim was angry.

He said: “I didn’t want Ozan to go, but the president and my friends on the board saw it differently. If that happens, there are two options. You either accept the decision or you do something else. I don’t have that other one because I made a promise to the Galatasaray fans.”

Kabak in Stuttgart: relegation despite good performance

Terim openly flirted with the resignation – and the Kabak sale was also the starting signal for a complicated relationship that could never be repaired. After a long time, Kabak was once again a player from Galatasaray’s talent factory, which had been so successful in the past. Terim had brought the only 17-year-old central defender to the pros and made him a regular player right away. Kabak wasn’t even allowed to drive a car when he was 18 and played in the Champions League against Schalke, Lok Moscow and Porto.

As unhappy as Terim was about the decision, he watched with interest how his former foster son developed. Even today, the Emperor is considered a close contact for Kabak. The 22-year-old defender will also need good advice. It may not be a career break that Kabak is experiencing, but the way out into the big wide world is proving to be more difficult for the Turk than expected.

At VfB Stuttgart, where he switched because he wanted to have a cautious start to his international career despite many alternatives, he experienced relegation only six months later, although his own performance was promising. He even scored three goals in 17 games. From the Bundesliga he was even promoted once Rookie of the Month chosen.

Reschke also brought Ozan Kabak to Schalke

In the summer that followed, Kabak was able to choose his new club, but opted for Schalke 04. Michael Reschke, who first brought Kabak to Stuttgart as sporting director and then to Gelsenkirchen as technical director, was in charge. In Stuttgart he made it the most expensive purchase in club history. At Schalke, he used the clause he negotiated himself, according to which Kabak can leave for 15 million euros on relegation.

Even before moving to Stuttgart, many top international clubs were also interested in FC Bayern. There were also considerations in Munich about the move to Schalke, but Kabak wanted to play and not wait for short appearances as the fourth or fifth central defender.

At Schalke he made the appearances he had hoped for, he even stood out as one of the best players, but then came the unspeakable pandemic, which changed a lot at Schalke. Suddenly it was about the existence of the club. Schalke fell into one of the biggest crises in the club’s history, only surviving on loans. In terms of sport, on the other hand, it came to disaster with a start. Negative records over negative records, relegation at the end of the season.

Ozan Kabak’s interlude at Liverpool FC

Ozan Kabak was already at Liverpool FC. Jürgen Klopp’s club loaned him out to make up for the many failures in central defense. It wasn’t the Reds’ sporting best season under Klopp, but when Kabak played he certainly showed his potential. “You have turned my trust into pride, your face should always smile,” Fatih Terim wrote on Instagram at the time. Kabak at Liverpool – that caused a lot of excitement in Turkey, especially as the Merseyside club enjoys broad support in Turkey.

However, Schalke’s (and Turkey’s) hope that Liverpool would exercise the purchase option at the end of the season was dashed. According to information from SPOX and GOAL, Liverpool decided on Leipzig’s Ibrahima Konate even before Kabak’s arrival. At the end of the season there was a change. Kabak went back to Gelsenkirchen. The Schalke bosses also relied on the potential proceeds from a Kabak transfer when redesigning the squad.

But at Schalke, the opinion grew that they did not want to sell for less than 15 million euros. Many offers the club received under this sum were rejected. There were also interested parties from the Bundesliga, as well as from Spain and Italy. However, Schalke was not prepared to refrain from the originally stipulated transfer fee.

Ozan Kabak will be out until the end of the season

Only when it became apparent at the end of the transfer period that the requested amount would not be paid and that top earner Kabak could remain on the payroll did Schalke listen to loan offers that had already existed before. The fact that the choice fell on Norwich City shortly before the end of the transfer was also due to Schalke. The English Premier League promoted offered 4.5 million euros rental fee – for Schalke the most lucrative offer they wanted to accept.

Under Daniel Farke, Kabak initially played regularly in England. But injuries followed, a long illness and a change of coach to Dean Smith, who then had a different idea than Kabak. The fact that the defender hardly played at all, the English media suspected, was also due to the fact that they did not want to activate the mandatory purchase option if Kabak reached a minimum number of competitive games.

With Stefan Kuntz in the national team, on the other hand, Kabak was set. Kabak made his best international appearance for Turkey in the important World Cup playoff game in Portugal. In the ninth minute of the game against Italy, the youngster suffered a serious thigh injury and will now be out until the end of the season. That Norwich will keep him afterwards is just as unlikely as a future at Schalke 04.

What’s next for Ozan Kabak in the summer?

Even in the event of promotion, Kabak would probably be too expensive for Schalke, even if the contract runs until 2024 and he would definitely be a big boost in sporting terms. But both the club and the Turkish international probably have other plans. Although Kabak will soon experience the third relegation of his young career in Norwich, but according to information from SPOX and GOAL there are still lucrative prospects who could offer him a perspective from the summer.

At just 22 years old, Kabak is still relatively early in his career, but the youngster now needs a station where he can play permanently. Five clubs since 2019 do not exactly speak for continuity.

It will be exciting to see how Schalke’s demands will look in the summer. The club earned almost 7.5 million euros from the loan deals with Liverpool and Norwich. It is therefore not to be expected that one is now again insisting on a sum in the middle double-digit millions. A return to the Premier League is conceivable. Also staying elsewhere in the Bundesliga. So so: Fatih Terim would be mighty proud of him.