By Luke Matthews
In one of the least expected transfer sagas of the transfer window, Liverpool look to have beaten Arsenal to the season-long loan signing of Real Madrid's Nuri Sahin. With a hefty fee apparently heading to the Bernabeu in return, Liverpool fans will be keen to know what they're getting for their money.
Sahin joined Madrid last summer for a bargain £8.7 million on the back of inspiring Borussia Dortmund to a surprise Bundesliga title, winning the German top flight's player of the season award in the process. Despite being at the then tender age of 22, many expected the Turk to be an eventual replacement for Xabi Alonso at the Bernabeu. However, Sahin's career at Madrid is yet to really kick-off.
A knee injury picked up in August meant that by the time the midfielder returned to full fitness in November, Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira had continued where they had left off the season before - showcasing one of the most efficient midfield partnerships in Europe.
There were flashes of class from the former Dortmund man - his well-executed headed goal against Ponferradina in the Copa del Rey, along with his impressive displays in the middle of the park in both legs of Madrid's Champions League quarter-final against APOEL Nicosia.
All in all it was a campaign to forget for Sahin, with the playmaker taking part in only four Liga games last term. With that in mind some supporters of the Anfield club may feel they're getting an unwanted cast-off, someone who failed to make it at one of Europe's elite sides. They would be wrong.
Last season was a write-off for Sahin; not because he performed poorly, he simply wasn't given the chance to shine. During his final season with Dortmund the German-born midfielder established himself as the finest of his kind. Grabbing eight goals and 13 assists, the Turkey international was integral to BVB's highly-lauded attacking style, often controlling the tempo of games from a deep playmaking role.
As for the big games, Sahin has a proven track record of stepping up to the mantle and thriving under the pressure and intensity. In 2010-11, Dortmund pulled off a league double over nearest rivals Bayern Munich, winning 2-0 at home and 3-1 away. In both games Sahin scored. Both games Sahin outplayed his opposite number, Bastian Schweinsteiger. Both games Sahin claimed the man of the match award.
|NURI SAHIN | Liverpool-bound
Liverpool fans of course, will be hoping for the Sahin of 2010-11 to add some much needed quality to the centre of their midfield. With the Merseyside club having another hellish campaign last term, pressure is on new boss Brendan Rodgers to turn it around and the arrival of the 23-year-old is certainly a statement of intent.
After flirting with the prospect of winning the Premier League under Rafa Benitez in 2008-09, Xabi Alonso signed for Madrid before Javier Mascherano moved to Barcelona the following summer. Liverpool and their midfield have never been the same since.
The likes of Alberto Aquilani and Christian Poulsen have failed in their attempts to replace the pair while last season's summer acquisitions, Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson, are still to convince the Anfield faithful.
In the early stages of his career at the club, it would seem Rodgers favours the attacking 4-3-3 formation that earned him so many plaudits at Swansea with two holding midfielders behind a more advanced figure.
The formation is a perfect fit for Sahin, a system where he could sit deep alongside the highly-rated Lucas Leiva and ping balls forward for the likes of Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez, while also spreading it wide for Stewart Downing and Fabio Borini.
It's worth adding that Sahin is not the same player as Xabi Alonso but with his passing ability, excellent awareness of space along with his eye for a killer ball, he could and should provide something Liverpool have been crying out for since 2009 - a little bit of class in the centre of the park.
After their sluggish start to the new Premier League campaign, Sahin's imminent arrival is a welcome one and with the promising Joe Allen amongst the other summer arrivals, competition for places may just get the best out of Adam and Henderson.
Sahin may not have been given the chance to become Xabi Alonso's successor at Madrid but for Liverpool, three years too late some may argue, he may just be given that opportunity.
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